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State Dep't extends Mexico travel warning

Children of gov't employees ordered from Monterrey

Children of U.S. government employees must leave Monterrey, Mexico, the State Department said Friday as it extended its warning of travel dangers in that country.

"Beginning September 10, 2010, the Consulate General in Monterrey will become a partially unaccompanied post with no minor dependents of U.S. government employees," the new travel warning said.

A shooting near the American Foundation School in Monterrey on Aug. 20 and the high numbers of kidnappings in the city prompted the addition to the warning, State said.

The travel warning - originally issued in February and renewed in July - says U.S. citizens should delay going to the Mexican states of Michoacán and Tamaulipas and to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila.

The state of Sonora is not in the list of areas to avoid travel but Nogales, Son., is mentioned as a city where firefights have broken out.

The situation in Monterrey has led to concerns about the safety of children, the warning said:

The level of violence in Monterrey is increasing and has spread to areas near a school which many U.S. citizen children attend.  Local police and private patrols do not have the capacity to deter criminal elements from areas around schools.  Given the increasing level of violence that is occurring all over Monterrey, school children are at a significantly increased risk.

The warning says tourists should stick to known tourist areas:

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Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes.

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It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime or violence. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

"While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well," the warning says.

According to published reports, 22,700 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence since 2006. The great majority of those killed have been members of DTOs. However, innocent bystanders have been killed in shootouts between DTOs and Mexican law enforcement or between rival DTOs.

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Much of the country’s narcotics-related violence has occurred in the northern border region. For example, since 2006, three times as many people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, across from El Paso, Texas, than in any other city in Mexico. More than half of all Americans killed in Mexico in FY 2009 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Embassy were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

Since 2006, large firefights have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, often in broad daylight on streets and other public venues. Such firefights have occurred mostly in northern Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey. Firefights have also occurred in Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima.  During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.

U.S. consulate employees and their families are not permitted to travel by vehicle across the border or to posts in the Mexican interior. Those assigned to border posts, such as Nogales, Son., may still travel by car.

In May, the Nogales consulate advised U.S. citizens to avoid traveling at night on Highway 8 between the U.S.-Mexico border and Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), because of reports of fake checkpoints.

Rocky Point business owners decried the "Warden Message," saying the reports were unconfirmed, but the consulate stood behind its advisory.

While the travel warning does not specifically mention Highway 8, it does advise U.S. citizens to "make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours."

The latest travel warning does not mention the death of Joseph Steven Proctor, who was reportedly killed Sunday at a military checkpoint near Acapulco after firing on Mexican troops.

The police chief of Puerto Peñasco was the subject of an attempted assassination in June, when he and his bodyguard were ambushed while on patrol.

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Mexican troops in Monterrey, July 18.