The U.S. Consulate is warning U.S. citizens that new information suggests cartels may be targeting ports of entry, consulate employees and “the public in general” in response to a crackdown on criminal gangs in Ciudad Juárez by the Mexican military. An emergency alert was issued Friday.
“In the past, cartels have been willing to utilize car bombs in attacks. We ask American citizens to remain vigilant,” the warning states.
The Consulate General of Ciudad Juárez said Mexican law enforcement and rival cartels may also be targeted, and suggested that U.S. citizens traveling or living in Chihuahua register or update their contact information with the State Department’s Smart Traveler program. Juárez is in the throes of a violent turf war between the rival Sinaloa and Juárez cartels and the various street gangs they employ. The warning does not state which cartel might be planning the retribution.
The emergency message is the second plea by U.S authorities in two weeks asking citizens to avoid Mexico or practice vigilance there. The Texas DPS and the Webb County Sheriff’s Department asked people to avoid Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas during the Fourth of July weekend. The agencies said they had reason to believe the Zetas cartel was targeting U.S. citizens. That region has seen an escalation in homicides, extortion and robberies, which authorities attribute to an ongoing battle between the Zetas and their former bosses, the Gulf Cartel.
On Friday, several dozen inmates from a state prison in Nuevo Laredo escaped during a jailbreak that left seven inmates dead. Mexican authorities said 59 inmates fled, though Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said late Friday his office believed the total is 66. Cuellar said the dead were members of the Gulf cartel. Five correctional officers that abandoned the prison during the escape have since been incarcerated, Cuellar added. He said he does not believe the prisoners would attempt to seek refuge in Texas. Los Zetas, he said, coordinated the escape, in an attempt to replenish their ranks. In December the gang successfully conducted a jailbreak at the same prison that led to the escape of more than 140 prisoners. That attempt was overseen by a nephew of a high-ranking Zetas member, Miguel Treviño Morales, known as Z-40. The DEA has offered a $5 million reward for anyone with information leading Treviño’s arrest or capture.
Meanwhile, the state of Tamaulipas, in an attempt to reassure would-be vacationers, issued a statement Friday announcing a joint effort by the military, federal and state police forces to increase patrols at tourist destinations and on highways. More than 3,000 state police will assist the Mexican Army, Navy and federal police in providing security for tourists. The state’s highways have direct ties to some of the country’s most horrific killing fields. Separate mass graves found in San Fernando, a town less than 100 miles south of Brownsville, contained the bodies of more than 200 victims, many of whom were forced off buses by the Zetas at checkpoints they established on state highways.