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Wednesday, April 13

USG warns that Americans could be specific targets of drug gangs in 3 Mexican states

I'm posting about half the April 13 Wall Street Journal report that broke the story, so if you haven't already seen it at the Journal's website I urge you to go there and read the entire report, which includes an interactive map that tracks the pattern of violence in Mexico.
U.S. Warns of Mexico Peril

By NICHOLAS CASEY And JOSé DE CóRDOBA
The Wall Street Journal

James R. Hagerty, Clare Ansberry and David Luhnow contributed to this article

MEXICO CITY—For the first time in Mexico's drug war, the U.S. government said its employees and citizens could be the targets of drug gangs in three Mexican states, a disclosure that could signal danger for Americans south of the border.

The little-noticed warning, published last Friday in a warden's message from the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, said U.S. officials had "information that Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law-enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosí."

In Tamaulipas state, 32 bodies were found in mass graves on a ranch on Tuesday, bringing the total discovered there since last week to 120, authorities said. On Friday, the U.S. State Department said an American man was reported kidnapped from a bus in the state, but it wasn't known if he was among the dead.

The Consulate's message could have major implications for Americans across Mexico, who have lived in and visited the country under assurances from both governments that drug-related violence wasn't directed toward them. An estimated one million U.S. citizens live in Mexico and millions more visit each year.

Among the cities covered in the warning is Monterrey, the country's northern business hub where U.S. companies like Whirlpool Corp. and General Electric Co. have their regional bases.

Tamaulipas state shares 230 miles of border with Texas and handles important cross-border traffic through Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa; San Luis Potosí is a popular tourist destination, famous for its silver mines.

Whirlpool declined to comment on the warning. GE didn't immediately have a comment.

A division president of one major U.S. company canceled a planned visit to Monterrey scheduled for the end of April after the Consulate warning, company officials said.

U.S. State Department officials wouldn't comment on what triggered the warning.

"My guess is that this is a generic threat that they want to take seriously but not send people into panic mode," said Eric Olson, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "Phrases like 'may intend' and 'near future' sound very unspecific to me, although worrisome nonetheless."

Mexican officials had no immediate comment on the warning, which seemed sure to add to rising tensions between Washington and Mexico City over the drug war. U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual was pressured to resign recently after comments he made about the Mexican army's inefficiency in diplomatic cables and published by WikiLeaks angered President Felipe Calderón.

Until recently, experts and officials on both sides of the border agreed that Mexican drug cartels focused their attacks on rivals and the occasional Mexican law-enforcement official but had little incentive to target outsiders.

Recent events have begun to call that assumption into question, including the killing of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer and the wounding of another in San Luis Potosí in February by gunmen from a drug gang. [...]

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