Warring Gangs Vie for Control of Nuevo Laredo Warring gangs in Nuevo Laredo, the Mexican city just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, have been murdering people almost daily as they vie for control of drug smuggling routes. Madeleine Brand speaks with Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning News about the escalating violence.

Warring Gangs Vie for Control of Nuevo Laredo

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where warring gangs are murdering people almost daily in an attempt to establish control of drug-smuggling routes. More than 100 people have been killed since January. And because of the violence, the American ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, shut down the US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo last week. He reopened it today. I spoke earlier with Alfredo Corchado. He's a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. He had just attended a news conference at the US Consulate.

Mr. ALFREDO CORCHADO (Reporter, The Dallas Morning News): General Counsel Michael Yoder just officially opened the consulate office, says he was happy to be back in business but also that the possibility exists that they may close down again if things don't get better anytime soon.

BRAND: Well, what was behind the decision to close it down in the first place?

Mr. CORCHADO: There's been 109 murders as of today and only six arrests. The murders have increasingly become more random, and the other reason is that right in front of the consulate office is the funeral home and a block away is the general hospital. So there's always a lot of activity in the area, and they don't feel they can take care of the safety of their employees or the visitors to the offices.

BRAND: And what was the Mexican government's reaction to closing the consulate?

Mr. CORCHADO: There was a lot of outcry. Nuevo Laredo, Laredo is the busiest land trading port along the US-Mexico border. So there's a lot of pressure from the federal government in Mexico City to reopen it, and they held a meeting last week with Ambassador Garza. The ambassador said that there were certain guarantees given to him, certain assurances, that there would be more security outside, try to avoid people standing outside too long and having them become victims of the random crime here.

BRAND: Well, it doesn't sound like it's so random with these assassinations being carried out. Have employees of the US Consulate been targeted at all?

Mr. CORCHADO: No direct threats to the American Consulate. The consulate in the past has shown us maps of some of the killings in the area, and many of them have happened in areas close to where some of the employees live. We asked the counsel whether he felt threatened in the past. He said, `Like many in Nuevo Laredo, we feel we live in a city of high tensions. You don't really feel like it's a safe area.'

BRAND: Does the American Consulate there, do the officials there feel that the Mexican police are doing enough?

Mr. CORCHADO: They won't say anything publicly. Privately, many of the US officials have in the past thought that there is a sense of complicity on the part of local policemen and state and even some federal officials. They're simply not doing enough to curtail the violence in the region.

BRAND: And the suspicion is that these are warring drug factions carrying out these killings?

Mr. CORCHADO: You have two rival drug gangs--one from the Sinaloa cartel and the other one from the Gulf cartel. They're both fighting for turf. They're fighting for control of interstate I-35. Once you cross into Laredo, it's a straight shot. It's all the way up to the Canadian border. So it's a big corridor for drugs.

BRAND: Alfredo Corchado is a reporter with The Dallas Morning News, and he joined us from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Thank you.

Mr. CORCHADO: Thank you.

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