- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Attack in Mexico

The son of a U.S. diplomat is the latest victim of violence in Mexico, where the U.S. ambassador recently renewed a warning for Americans to be cautious when traveling south of the border.

Marcos Leyes Perez was mugged and stabbed Sunday about 1 a.m. as he left a nightclub in Oaxaca City, his father, U.S. Consul Mark Leyes said this week. He said his son suffered a punctured liver and is in stable condition in a local hospital. Three assailants stole an undisclosed amount of money.

“I consider this to be the result of a common crime that could have happened anywhere and to anyone,” the diplomat said.

The assault came two days after Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. issued a travel warning to Americans visiting Mexico.

“We ask U.S. citizens to exercise all due caution while in Mexico and remain vigilant for any situation that could become dangerous,” Mr. Garza said. “While demonstrations in Mexico are almost always peaceful, there exists the potential for violence, and U.S. citizens should avoid such demonstrations.”

He renewed earlier travel warnings that described “violence by criminal elements” in “many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas.”

“In recent months there have been execution-style murders of Mexican officials in Tamaulipas, particularly Nuevo Laredo, Michoacan, Baja California, Guerrero, particularly Acapulco, Nuevo Leon, especially in and around Monterrey, and other states,” the warning said.

“In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Nuevo Laredo, with more than two dozen cases unresolved, and new cases of kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported.”

Mourning Yeltsin

The Russian Embassy today opens a book of condolences to mourn the death of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation.

Visitors can express their thoughts on the passing of the Russian leader who helped spur the downfall of the Soviet Union from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Poppy substitute

Afghan farmers are being coaxed away from growing the prime ingredient for heroin through aggressive programs to help them plant and market other crops, the Afghan finance minister told officials in Washington this week.

Afghanistan is still the world’s largest producer of poppies but the crop is declining as a percent of the country’s gross domestic product, Anwar ul-Haq Ahady told members of Congress, senior administration officials and executives at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The poppy yield has decreased to 27 percent of GDP from 40 percent in recent years, the Afghan Embassy said in a report on his visit. Mr. Ahady also insisted that farmers will be able to sustain their families by growing legal crops.

“Elimination of narcotics does not mean the starvation of the 2 million people who work in those field,” he said.

Mr. Ahady noted that the country, still recovering from Taliban terrorism, is expected to grow economically to as much as 12 percent this year. The economy grew by 8 percent last year. The government expects to collect 30 percent more in income taxes, projecting receipts at more than $715 million this year, he said.

The finance minister echoed other Afghan officials by calling on wealthy nations to meet their pledges of aid and warned against any withdrawal of foreign forces.

“There is still enormous need for international assistance in Afghanistan,” he said. “Premature disengagement will lead to previous investments being wasted.”

Mr. Ahady repeated his country’s appreciation for the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

“Afghans are grateful to the U.S. government and American taxpayers for generous support to our people,” he said. “We look forward to continued cooperation to help Afghanistan rebuild.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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