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The Border War: U.S. consulate reopens in violent Mexican border city

ASSOCIATED PRESS | August 8, 2005
By Jorge Vargas

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – The U.S. consulate in this violence-wracked border city reopened Monday, a week after U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza ordered it closed, citing a wave of violence along the border.

Security was tightened at the consulate and two Nuevo Laredo police officers kept watch on people waiting in line. Four other municipal officers in bike patrols circled the building, while federal agents and soldiers in pickup trucks drove by repeatedly.

U.S. Consul Michael Yoder said he had asked Mexican officials to send more officers to guard the consulate.

"We will see between 100 and 150 people daily and we want them to be safe and come in the building as soon as possible," Yoder said.

Rosa Maria Herrera, who traveled 185 miles (300 kilometers) by bus from neighboring Coahuila state to get a visa for her 4-year-old granddaughter, said the line at the U.S. Consulate was slow as usual.

"We arrived at 10 a.m. and have been waiting for two hours," Herrera said.

The consulate suspended all but emergency operations last week after assailants fired machine guns, grenades and a rocket launcher at a home neighbors say was a safe house for drug smugglers.

Garza called the attack and "alarming incident" and said the closure was needed so officials could "assess the security situation for our employees, American travelers to the region, and visitors to the consulate."

Since January, more than 100 people have been slain in Nuevo Laredo, a city of about 350,000 people across U.S. border from Laredo, Texas.

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Authorities say the violence stems from a war between two of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels for control of key smuggling routes into the United States.

On June 8, the Nuevo Laredo police chief was gunned down within hours of taking office, prompting President Vicente Fox to send hundreds of soldiers and federal agents to Nuevo Laredo to restore order.

Over the weekend, 600 additional federal agents were sent in to quell the violence.

But despite the president's order, the killings have continued.

A 17-year-old boy who was ambushed Sunday by a man wielding an automatic weapon, said Jose Gaznares, a police commander for Tamaulipas state, which includes Nuevo Laredo.

Eduardo Gonzalez was walking down a street with Diego Yacotu, a 15-year-old friend, and a 9-year-old boy when the gunman opened fired, killing Gonzalez and wounding Yacotu, Gaznares said.

Gaznares said investigators have no suspects in the case.

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