U.S. consulate warns employees as gun battles rock Mexican border city

The United States consulate in Mexico’s border city of Nuevo Laredo issued a security alert on Wednesday, warning against gun battles and urging government employees to take precautions.

Gun battles have killed at least three people this week in the northern city bordering the Texas city of Laredo, media have said. It one of the Mexican cities where the U.S. government has sent asylum seekers to wait as their cases are decided.

“The consulate has received reports of multiple gunfights throughout the city of Nuevo Laredo,” it said in a Twitter post. “U.S. government personnel are advised to shelter in place.”

On Twitter, users purportedly from Laredo reported hearing gunfire ringing out from the neighboring Mexican city.

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In a Twitter post late on Wednesday, Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, the governor of Tamaulipas, the state home to Nuevo Laredo, blamed the attacks on its Cartel of the Northeast.

“After the cowardly attacks on the part of the Cartel of the Northeast in Nuevo Laredo, the (government of Tamaulipas) will not let down its guard and will continue acting with strength against criminals,” he wrote.

Tension over the cartels intensified in November when suspected cartel members massacred three women and six children of U.S.-Mexican origin in northern Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to designate the groups as terrorist organizations in response to a series of bloody security breaches triggered by cartel gunmen.

Meanwhile: Mexican Consulate in San Diego to extend their 140th anniversary celebration to 2020

The Mexican Consulate in San Diego will extend its 140th anniversary into 2020, when a historical exhibition and publication of photographs and documents is planned.

This collection dates back to 1851, when the Special Commission of the Mexican Senate pointed out the “absolute necessity” of opening two consulates, in San Francisco and San Diego.

On Oct. 20, 1879, Consul General Juan Bautista Verde established the Consulate of Mexico in San Diego, then located in the downtown area. Five days later he made the announcement in Spanish through the Sunday edition of the San Diego Union.

DON JUAN B. VERDE, Consul of the Republic of Mexico for Southern California, has established himself in the brick building on Fifth street, next door below the Hotel de France. The Mexican Government has been fortunate in the appointment of so able and sagacious a gentleman to represent its interests here.

At the time, only about 2,500 people lived in the city of San Diego. Porfirio Diaz was the President of Mexico and Rutherford B. Hayes was U.S. President, while Miguel Ruelas served as Mexican Foreign Minister.

To commemorate the 140th anniversary, the Mexican Consulate is planning a series of activities.

A historical research committee has been established with Heath Fox, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society, Paul Ganster, director of the Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias for SDSU, Bob Morris of RBM & Associates and Gaspar Orozco with the Mexican Consulate.

The findings of their research will be shared on social media and will close with an exhibition, probably around next summer. It will include a publication, Orozco said.

Consul General of Mexico, Carlos González Gutiérrez, pointed out that the consulate’s mission has remained intact since its foundation.

“Consul (Bautista Verde) had the same mandate that we have today, to protect nationals within the consular jurisdiction,” he said.

Responsibilities have expanded along with the political times and the size of the Mexican diaspora in the United States.

Given its proximity to Mexico, the consulate also offers its services to nationals living south of the border. Every day, the consulate issues nearly 200 documents, 40 percent of which belong to Mexicans living in Baja California, according to González Gutiérrez.

“About 145,000 Mexicans or Mexican Americans cross the border every day as commuters. It is natural that this office should have that particular challenge,” he added.

The historical committee continues to gather data on the number of Consuls general who have run the office in San Diego.

The list goes from Juan Bautista Verde in 1879, to most recently Hermilo López Bassols (1988-89), Armando Beteta (1989-90), Enrique Loaeza (1990-93), Gustavo Iruegas (1993-94), Luis Herrera Lasso (1995-99), Gabriela Torres Ramírez (2000-01), Rodulfo Figueroa (2001-03), Luis Cabrera (2003-07), Remedios Gómez Arnau (2008-16) and Marcela Celorio (2016-19), among others.

They are also doing research on the Consulate’s venues. For now and according to the Diplomatic Historical Archive, there are five registered. The first one on 5th Avenue (1879), the Spreckels Building on Broadway (1918), the old Bank of America building (1946), Front Street (1989) and their current location in Little Italy.

Hermilo Lopez Bassols, who came to San Diego in 1988 after serving as Consul General in Houston, Texas, recalled his time in the border region.

“San Diego is and continues to be a strategic consulate for Mexico because of its position on the border and being the first large city in California from south to north,” he said in a telephone interview from Mexico City.

During his administration, disagreement began over what would later be the installation of a fence between San Diego and Tijuana.

Also at this time, discussions began over the possibility of a bi-national terminal connecting California with the Tijuana airport, a project that became reality in 2015, he said.

López Bassols agreed that the Consulate’s main task has been to protect the interests of Mexican nationals in the U.S., and those protection areas have been reinforced with lawyers and other personnel.

“This is one of the areas in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has worked most intensely.”

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