Mexico Ambassador Warns U.S. Citizens Away From Chihuahua
Alarmed that crime and violence is rapidly increasing, Mexico Ambassador Antonio O. Garza, said that the travel alert for Americans going into Mexico, set to expire soon, not only should be re-issued, but should be heightened “to better reflect the increasing insecurity in the state of Chihuahua.”
Garza, concerned with reports out of Juarez and other Chihuahuan cities, came to the region to learn more about the current situation. He said he is alarmed that nearly 200 murders have been registered already this year; almost 2000 vehicles were stolen in only two months, January and February; bank robberies are at record levels; and kidnappings for ransom are on the rise.
So far, the Mexican government’s attempts to curb the escalating situation have been ineffective.
Last week, members of President Felipe Calderon’s National Security Cabinet met with Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza Terrazas in Juarez to announce the launching of Operation Conjunta Chihuahua. It is hoped the initiative will “dismantle the criminal networks in northern Mexico, piece by piece.”
Groups such as Los Zetas, who are battling for control of drug trafficking, are responsible for most of the violence. Coupled with this situation is the smuggling of guns from the United States, needed more and more to resist a massive military crackdown that began when President Felipe Calderón took office in December. Mexico’s very strict gun laws force Mexican criminals to smuggle weapons into the country.
Although officials say they don't know the problem's true scope, about 90 percent of the approximately 12,000 confiscated weapons Mexican authorities provided in the past three years were traced back to the United States. Demand seems to be increasing for combat-style weapons with more punch and capacity, officials said.
Project Gunrunner, initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is expanding to try to curb gun smuggling. It announcd in January that eTrace technology would be used to trace firearms. “The continued expansion of our enforcement and strategic efforts on the U.S.-Mexico border, in partnership with the government of Mexico and other U.S. agencies, will deny firearms to criminal organizations and combat gun-related violence and homicides on both sides of the U.S.- Mexico border.”
The ATF will also spend more than $10 million annually to add 35 special agents and 15 investigators to its Southwest border operations. In the past two years, the bureau has dedicated about 100 agents and 25 investigators to the region, officials said.
Tags: Border Violence , Mexico US Relations , Gun Smuggling , Drug War , Calderon , Mexico Ambassador
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