Following the weekend killing in Juarez of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, the U.S. Department of State has issued a strongly worded and startling warning for Americans to stay away from Mexico. The department also has told family members of U.S. government officials in Mexican border towns they can return to the U.S.
The El Paso Times reports that the three murder victims were Lesley A. Enriquez, 25, who worked for the consulate and was four-months pregnant; her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, 30, a detention officer for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office; and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, whose wife also worked for the consulate.
The travel warning, issued Sunday, is a more serious caution than the Travel Alert the department issued last month. "Recent violent attacks have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states ... and advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution," the warning states.
It paints a scary portrait of the drug battle raging in Mexico. The warning sites "small-unit combat" between Mexican government officials and cartels, involving automatic weapons and grenades. During some of the exchanges, the warning says, U.S. citizens have been temporarily trapped. The warning strongly discourages travel to Juarez, where the daily death toll reaches double digits. "Mexican authorities report that more than 2,600 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. Additionally, this city of 1.3 million people experienced more than 16,000 car thefts and 1,900 carjackings in 2009," according to the warning.
But the warning extends beyond the daily violence we've all grown sadly accustomed to hearing from Juarez and warns Americans about traveling throughout Mexico: "Bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens living in Mexico have been kidnapped and most of their cases remain unsolved."