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American families, personnel leave Mexico consulate after violence sparked by arrest of drug cartel leader

Six journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2022
Six journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2022 04:49

The United States authorized the departure of families and some personnel Wednesday at the U.S. consulate in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo. The move came after drug cartel gunmen fired at the U.S. consulate building in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, during Sunday night.

"The Department of State authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members from the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo due to security conditions," a department statement said.

"As of March 15, the Department of State is not able to offer routine consular services from the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo," it continued. "U.S. citizens wishing to depart Nuevo Laredo should monitor local news and announcements and only do so when considered safe during daylight hours."

The department also advised U.S. citizens not to travel to Tamaulipas, the state where Nuevo Laredo is located, citing crime and safety concerns.

The gunfire late Sunday and early Monday came in retaliation for the arrest of drug gang leader Juan Gerardo Treviño, also known as "El Huevo."  U.S. authorities describe him as a founder and leader of the Northeast Cartel, the successor to the old Zetas cartel.

Truck is seen set ablaze following the arrest of a gang leader, in Nuevo Laredo
A truck is seen set ablaze in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo following the arrest of the gang leader Juan Gerardo Trevino, also known as, "El Huevo", in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in this screen grab taken from a video obtained from social media March 14,2022.  @HIRAM_AR via Reuters

The Justice Department said Wednesday an indictment unsealed against Treviño charges him with 11 counts of drug trafficking conspiracy and other charges that could send him to prison for life. The department called Treviño the "drug trafficker, enforcer, weapons procurer, and plaza leader" of the cartel.

Ricardo Mejia, Mexico's assistant secretary of public safety, said Treviño was a U.S. citizen and not a Mexican and he was deported Tuesday.

If Treviño had Mexican citizenship, he would have been subject to a lengthy extradition process, but Mejia said Treviño had no Mexican identity documents nor any record of them.

Copies of Mexican birth and baptism certificates and the equivalent of a social security card in Treviño's name circulated on social media sites Wednesday, suggesting he had Mexican citizenship. But the authenticity of those documents could not be verified. Searches in government websites using the data on the documents returned an "information not correct" response.

After his arrest Sunday, members of Treviño's gang shot up the border city of Nuevo Laredo, and hit the U.S. consulate with gunfire. The consulate was closed until further notice and two U.S. border bridges leading to Laredo, Texas, were briefly closed because of the incident.

U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday that "I have raised our grave concerns about these incidents and the safety and security of our employees directly with the government of Mexico."

Treviño was handed over to U.S. at a border bridge in Tijuana, far to the west of Nuevo Laredo, presumably to avoid attempts to free him.

Treviño is reportedly the nephew of Miguel Angel Treviño, the imprisoned former leader of the Zetas. The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for Trevino Morales before he was captured in 2013.

The cartel has participated in some of the bloodiest, most tenacious turf battles in Mexico, attacking both Mexican law enforcement personnel and the rival Gulf cartel.

Treviño, who reportedly had two illegal guns when he was detained, also faces charges of extortion, homicide and terrorism in Mexico.

According to the Tamaulipas state forensic service, over the years, officials have found more than a dozen cartel "extermination sites" — where the remains of some of Mexico's nearly 100,000 missing were obliterated. The largest such site was yet another border setting near the mouth of the Rio Grande called "the dungeon," in territory controlled by the Gulf cartel.

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