Mexican Backlash

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

Mexican Backlash


Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Mexican backlash

Mexican officials from President Vicente Fox to bureaucrats in the Foreign Ministry are complaining about U.S. criticism of Mexico's failure to stop gang warfare on the border and about remarks by U.S. Ambassador Antonio Garza.

Mr. Fox and Geronimo Gutierrez, an undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, this week bristled at U.S. demands that Mexico do more to control the drug-gang violence across the border from Laredo, Texas.

Mr. Gutierrez also complained about a speech by Mr. Garza on Monday in which he said he had ordered the temporary closure of the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo to "punish" Mexico. Gangs fighting over smuggling routes to the United States have killed more than 100 people in the border town this year.

Mr. Garza has even rattled the State Department, where a senior official told our correspondent Nicholas Kralev yesterday that the ambassador's remarks were "inartful."

Mr. Fox on Tuesday called on President Bush to help Mexico fight the drug gangs and questioned whether the United States is doing enough to curtail the American demand for illegal drugs.

"My call to the United States, whether it is a state government or the government of President Bush, is that, instead of pointing out problems, we make proposals and that we work together instead of each working by himself," Mr. Fox told reporters in Mexico.

Mr. Gutierrez on Wednesday said Mr. Garza's "selection of words was, frankly, unfortunate and not appropriate to the role of an ambassador."

Mr. Garza, in a speech at the University of Denver, recounted the reasons why he had ordered the closure of the consulate Aug. 1 for a weeklong security review.

"Some have said that I ordered the shutdown to punish the Mexican government for its failure to control violence in the region," Mr. Garza said.

"And in a sense that's true, and I've been very clear [that] my primary responsibility as ambassador is the safety of United States citizens, and I won't hesitate to take action when they are at risk. …

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