Posted: 2:12 pm ET
Updated: 4:30 pm ET
On April 1, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico issued a Security Message informing American citizens of a potential security threat to its employees and announced the restriction of travel of USG employees until further notice:
Due to a potential security threat to its employees, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey has instructed U.S. Government personnel to avoid traveling outside the Monterrey metropolitan area until further notice. The U. S. Consulate General in Monterrey strongly advises all U.S. citizens residing or traveling in the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosí or Nuevo Leon to review their personal security habits and maintain high levels of situational awareness.
Monterrey currently has a post hardship pay of 15% and zero danger differential. A source called the threat “credible.” We were told that when the allowances committee cut the previous danger pay for Monterrey from 20% to zero, the justification reportedly was that “Americans were not directly targeted by the cartel violence.” Note that the State Department removed danger pay for all Mexican posts last year (see New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status).
A State Department nightingale also wants us to know that Monterrey where USG employees “remain under curfew, unable to drive virtually anywhere, and uncomfortable telling friends and family to visit” has the same hardship pay as Mexico City, apparently, the number one place to visit in 2016 according to the New York Times. Also that “there is virtually no freedom of the press” in northern Mexico and the U.S. media only covers them when “it pertains to Donald Trump.” The State Department’s allowances page lists the hardship differential for Mexico here.
The 2016 Crime and Safety Report for Monterrey notes the following:
Due to drug-related violence associated with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO), U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey may travel by land to the states of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, and Durango, utilizing toll roads and may overnight in their capitals. Travel is permitted within the state of Nuevo Leon via toll roads. Travel to Coahuila must be done in an armored vehicle, and overnight lodging is restricted. U.S. government personnel must remain in San Pedro Garza Garcia from 0100-0600 (0500 if traveling to the airport).
The threat of Transnational Criminal Organization-related violence remains the most significant security concern in Monterrey’s Consular District. Police continue to confront the cartels and their associates, and these confrontations can result in shootouts on public roads. Following the confrontations, police frequently discover weapons and in some cases explosives.
According to a recent Daily Beast report, “from 2007 to 2014 the crime wars of Mexico claimed more lives than the combined toll of the wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. More than 164,000 Mexicans have disappeared or been killed in the conflict, and the extreme and chronic violence, coupled with great poverty, also drives much of the illegal immigration that Donald Trump and his supporters are so worried about. “ Read Why the Military Will Never Beat Mexico’s Cartels.
The top boss at USCG Monterrey is Timothy Zúñiga-Brown who arrived in Monterrey in August 2015 as Consul General and Principal Officer. According to Mission Mexico’s newly redesigned website, USCG Monterrey is “one of the largest and busiest consulates in the world. The Monterrey consular district, includes Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and most of Coahuila. This district has nearly 13 million inhabitants and is nearly the size of Texas. The Consulate General staff includes 82 U.S. Officers representing eleven U.S. government agencies plus their 145 Mexican employees.”
Roberta Jacobson, President Obama’s nominee as the next ambassador to Mexico has been stuck in confirmation purgatory for months (see SFRC Clears Roberta Jacobson’s Nomination as US Ambassador to Mexico, Roadblocks Remain). U.S. Mission Mexiso is currently headed by Charge d’affairs William H. Duncan.
In June 2015, a congressional letter of concern asked Secretary of State John Kerry to examine criminal violence in Mexico as a threat to U.S. personnel working in Mexican consulates.
Here’s a good read from the Congressional Research Service on organized crime and drug trafficking organizations in Mexico via fas.org: