Consulate Reminds Americans to be Vigilant
MIGUEL ALEMAN -- U.S. State Department officials reminded American citizens this week to remain especially vigilant if they travel in Mexico along the Texas border, an area where cartel-related violence has surged recently.
The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey issued the warning Wednesday, hours after assailants kidnapped several people from two downtown hotels in that city during an early-morning attack.
Officials repeated an earlier warning to American citizens to avoid driving between Reynosa and Monterrey amid the increase in violence and reports of impromptu checkpoints operated by drug cartel thugs.
"Based on recent reports received at the Consulate, it appears that criminal elements have been targeting large SUVs and full-size pick-up trucks for theft and carjacking," the advisory states. "Americans planning travel by road from areas within Monterrey's consular district to the U.S. border should be especially vigilant and carefully monitor local news reports."
Also on Wednesday, Tamaulipas state police found a body in the border city of Miguel Alemán, across the Rio Grande from Roma. The cadaver was found along a road leading to the Sabinito ejido, according to a statement posted on the state's emergency notification website late Wednesday evening. In Mexico, ejidos are village lands communally held in the traditional aboriginal system of land tenure.
During the attack in Monterrey, dozens of gunmen burst into a Holiday Inn and another hotel, searching room-to-room and abducting at least six people, prosecutors told The Associated Press.
Nuevo León state attorney general Alejandro Garza y Garza told the AP that 20 to 30 gunmen abducted four guests and a receptionist from the 17-story Holiday Inn in Mexico's industrial hub, which has experienced a surge in violence recently. The gunmen had with them a handcuffed man who led them to the fifth floor.
The group then searched at least seven more rooms on the fifth floor, apparently looking for specific targets, before going across the street to the Hotel Mision where they abducted a receptionist, the attorney general said.
Those abducted included three male guests who registered at the Holiday Inn as businessmen from Mexico City and a woman registered as being from Reynosa. Consular officials denied Mexican media reports that an American woman had been kidnapped from one of the hotels.
A gun battle April 13 left four people dead in Camargo, a city south of Rio Grande City and east of Miguel Alemán. Three soldiers who were injured during the shooting were airlifted to the regional military hospital. Several gunmen who were also hurt were evacuated from the scene by other assailants. Authorities have not yet publicly identified the two suspected gunmen who were killed, and officials did not release the names of the slain soldiers.
A travel warning for Mexico that the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey first issued last month remains in effect until May 12.
An estimated total of more than 22,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on drug cartels.
>> To report emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate. U.S. citizens in Monterrey's consular district may contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit at the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, located at 411 Avenida Constitución Poniente; telephone (81) 8047-3100; after hours emergency telephone 044 (81) 8362-9126 (from Mexico); ACS unit fax (81) 8342-5433; e-mail MonterreyACS@state.gov; web page http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov