- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

Alarmed in Mexico

Mexican officials, stung by criticism from U.S. Ambassador Antonio O. Garza, have called for a top-level meeting with him and other American officials on Thursday to discuss U.S. warnings about widespread drug-related violence throughout the country.

The Foreign Relations Department last week announced the meeting and said it wanted to clear up “discrepancies” in a letter Mr. Garza posted on the embassy Web site (https://mexico.usembassy.gov), although the department did not site specifics.

Mr. Garza said in an “advisory message” to Americans that they should use “extreme caution” when visiting Mexico because of the rise in warfare between rival drug gangs that has spilled from the U.S.-Mexican border into the Mexican “heartland.”

More than 1,500 people have been killed in the drug war this year, including gang members, police and civilian.

“Violence in the U.S.-Mexico border region continues to threaten our very way of life, and as friends and neighbors, Mexicans and Americans must be honest about the near-lawlessness of some part of our border region,” Mr. Garza wrote.

He acknowledged that the government of President Vicente Fox has “done a great deal” to fight back against the drug gangs but added “more must be done.”

Mr. Garza noted that last week 25 Mexicans who were going to work for a Texas-based company were kidnapped from their hotel in the dangerous Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, the front line in the drug war across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.

Also last week an American teenager was among six young men killed in a “gang-related shootout,” he said.

“Americans have been killed in random shootings on major highways outside of Mexico City, Nuevo Laredo and in the Mexican heartland,” Mr. Garza said. “In the past two years, there have been dozens of unresolved kidnappings involving American citizens along the border, with 20 of those cases still unresolved.

“The increase in these crimes is cause for alarm for any number of reasons, among them that the crimes put a strain on travel and tourism, on the business and investment climate and on the bilateral relationship we share,” he added.

Sri Lanka update

The ambassador from Sri Lanka says his government is demonstrating its commitment to peace with separatist rebels often accused of employing terrorist tactics like suicide bombings of civilian targets.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke said Sri Lanka endorsed a call for a resumption of peace talks from diplomats from the United States, Norway, the European Union and Japan, who met earlier this month in Brussels.

The diplomats monitor a cease-fire that has frequently been violated by both side, although most infractions are blamed on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the United States has condemned as a terrorist organization.

“The Sri Lanka government has reaffirmed the declaration of President Mahinda Rajapakse on Aug. 22 … that [it] remains ready to engage in talks with the LTTE, following a clear commitment by the LTTE leader to a comprehensive and verifiable cessation of hostilities,” Mr. Goonetilleke said.

“The government is also pleased that the [diplomats] have endorsed this approach and stated that the LTTE must abide by all agreements and renounce terrorism and violence.”

However, the ambassador said his government “expressed great concern” over “certain elements” in the diplomats’ statement, which includes an accusation that Sri Lankan troops were responsible for the bombing last month of a school in the town of Mullaitivu.

The diplomats, in their statement issued earlier this month, blamed both sides for violation of the cease-fire, adding they were “deeply alarmed” by the violence. The also complained that the government is doing too little to investigate charges of human rights abuses by Sri Lankan officials.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]



Click to Read More

Click to Hide