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Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

U.S. warning angers officials

January 28, 2005

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— A U.S. alert about violence along the border in Mexico created unexpected friction with a crucial neighbor Thursday, just as new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other new members of President Bush's team are starting to take office.

The public announcement was issued because of an upswing of killings and kidnappings linked to battles between drug gangs in towns along the Mexican side of the border, but Mexico's top Cabinet officer, Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, insisted that the U.S. statement "went too far."

"Why didn't they say anything a week ago when I was in that meeting with the secretary of homeland security?" Creel said in a nationally televised interview, referring to a meeting with Tom Ridge on Jan. 17 in Calexico, Calif. "He didn't express any concern to me. On the contrary," Ridge praised Mexico's actions, Creel added.

The outburst of Mexican irritation came on the day that Rice took over and as the Bush administration is preparing to change leadership at the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, which deal with issues of drug trafficking, immigration and security along the long Mexican border.

Mexican officials seemed especially irritated by the emphatic manner of the U.S. alert: A formal announcement by the State Department was accompanied by the public release of a letter to Mexican officials by U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza -- who is considered here to be a relatively close friend of Bush.

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