Mexico Arrests Suspect, Reportedly a US Citizen, in Shooting of US Diplomat in Guadalajara

Posted: 3:34 pm PT
Updated: 4:30 pm PT
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Mexico’s Fiscalía General del Estado de Jalisco announced today that the suspect on Friday’s attack of a U.S. consular official from USCG Guadalajara had been arrested (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). According to the state attorney general on Twitter, the suspect was handed over to Mexico’s federal attorney general’s office .

Secretary Kerry released the following statement on January 8:

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to thank the Government of Mexico for their swift and decisive arrest of a suspect in the heinous attack against our Foreign Service Officer colleague in Guadalajara, Mexico. The safety and security of U.S. citizens and our diplomatic staff overseas are among our highest priorities. My thoughts and prayers remain with this officer and his family during this difficult time. I wish him a speedy recovery.

The Guardian’s latest reporting on this incident cites a source within the Guadalajara police force who spoke on condition of anonymity, and identified the suspect as Zafar Zia, a 31-year-old American citizen (AmCit) of Indian origin.

The source said Zia was captured in a joint operation by the FBI, DEA and Jalisco state officials in Guadalajara’s affluent Providencia neighbourhood early on Sunday morning. The suspect had a .380 caliber pistol tucked into his waistband when he was arrested. The authorities also seized a Honda Accord with California license plates, a wig and sunglasses that may match those seen in footage of the shooting, and 16 ziplock bags containing 336 grams of a substance believed to be marijuana.

US Mission Mexico has declined to provide further information to the media about the shooting and declined to identify the employee or his position at the consulate general; information that is already widely reported in U.S. and Mexican media.

A separate news report says that the suspect had moved to Guadalajara in November 2016 from Phoenix and had been residing in the city since. The report also says that “the apparent motive for the attempted murder appears to have been a disagreement over an undisclosed visa process.” A local report confirms that the suspect has been residing in a farm in Colonia Prados Providencia for about two months. All the rooms on site were reportedly rented by students.

Consular officials have been screamed at, and spit on by rejected visa applicants, and there are obviously some very unhappy visa applicants but if this is true, this would be the first time since 2010 where an armed attack is tied to a visa office (see Three from US Consulate General Ciudad Juárez Dies in Drive-By Shooting). There was a time when all that separate a visa officer from a visa applicant is an open counter.  Easy to grab and physically attack a visa official or employee. We kind of recall that the hard line interview windows started going up in the early 80’s. Our go-to pal for this stuff told us that there were certainly incidents of client aggression and assaults in both visa and citizen services sections but believed that the interview window upgrade was just part of the larger hardline standard (i.e., putting forced-entry and ballistic protection between public areas and the general work area).

The U.S. Government has spent millions upgrading embassy security and beefing up security protection inside consular offices but this attack shows how vulnerable our people are overseas even when they are just going about the ordinary routines of daily life (going to a gym, using an ATM machine, driving a car, etc).  The latest GAO report on diplomatic security points out that the worst attacks against our diplomatic personnel actually occurs while they are in transit (see GAO Reviews @StateDept’s Efforts to Protect U.S. Diplomatic Personnel in Transit).

In any case, if true that the suspect is a U.S. citizen, a couple of thoughts: one, he would not have a need for a U.S. visa, unless it is for a fiancee/spouse or other family members of foreign origin.  We probably will hear more about this in the coming days. Two, as a U.S. citizen arrested in a foreign country, a U.S. consular officer assigned at the American Citizen Services branch in USCG Guadalajara would have to visit the suspect in jail; as U.S. consular officers do worldwide to ensure the fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas.

We should note that the U.S. and Mexico has an extradition treaty that allows for the transfer of suspected or convicted criminals from one to country to the other. So this case might yet end up in a U.S. court. Latest update from AFP says that the suspect will be deproted deported back to the United States to face further legal action.

 

Meanwhile, USMission Mexico has released a Security Message urging precautions following the shooting in Guadalajara.

Related posts:

Employees of U.S. Consulate General Monterrey (a non-danger post) face credible security threat in Mexico Apr 2016
USCG Monterrey: USG Personnel Banned From Driving Between Post-U.S. Border, Also Extortions Up by 24%
US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey
New Mexico Travel Warning: “Authorized Departure” remains in place for Mexico’s northern border cities, Monterrey to go partially unaccompanied with no minor dependents
US ConGen Monterrey in Mexico Goes Unaccompanied
US Consulate General Monterrey personnel urged to keep kids at home following American School Shootout
Danger Danger, Bang Bang — State Department Eyes Changes in Danger Pay
New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status
Republicans got mad, mad, mad about danger pay, local guards, violence; calls for closures of consulates in Mexico
Snapshot: The State Department’s Danger Pay Locations (as of February 2015)
Mexican Border Consular Posts Get 15% Danger Pay
Where dangerous conditions are not/not created equal …
State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts

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American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico

Posted: 2:19 pm PT
Updated: 2:48 PT
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An American diplomat serving at the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico was shot Friday as he was reportedly leaving the city’s Plaza Sania mall.  The FBI is offering $20,000 for information leading to identification of the suspect. USCG Guadalajara has posted three video clips showing the shooter, and images of the attack on its Facebook page.

“Please call the United States embassy in Mexico City if you recognise him at (01-55)5080-2000.”

According to the Guardian citing Guadalajara’s El Informador newspaper, the victim was reportedly being treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound in the upper chest.  The State Department has not named the person who was shot, but the Mexico Attorney General’s office identified him to the news media as Christopher Ashcraft.  The police source told the Guardian that he suspected the shooter was a professional killer. “He was probably aiming for the head but he missed as he leaned over to put his ticket in the machine.” 

A friend of the victim who notified this blog of the shooting said that the FSO is “conscious in the ICU and will likely be okay.”

Congressional Records dated September 8, 2015 indicates that one Christopher Nolan Ashcraft of the District of Columbia was appointed as a member of the Foreign Service to be Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.

This latest attack will resonate deeply with USG employees overseas, especially in light of the latest GOP move in Congress of using embassy security funds as a “bargaining chip” to try and force the move of the US Embassy in Israel (see Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens). Or for that matter, the potential targeting of specific Federal employees with the recent reinstatement of the Holman Rule under the guise of “retrenching expenditures” (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Slash Pay of Any Federal Employee).

USCG Guadalajara has issued the following security message:

As the investigation into the January 6 shooting of the U.S. Consulate employee continues, U.S citizens in the Guadalajara area are urged to restrict their movements outside their homes and places of work to those truly essential.  They should also take care not to fall into predictable patterns for those movements that are essential.  They should vary the times and routes of their movements.

Below is the CCTV footage by USCG Guadalajara showing a man in a purple T-shirt loitering by what is reported as the car park exit before pulling out a pistol, firing at the car, and then running away.

 

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US Mission Mexico Issues Emergency Message on Hurricane Patricia

Posted: 3:12 pm PDT
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US Mission Mexico issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens in the country on October 23, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. concerning Hurricane Patricia.  It is expected to make landfall as a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.  Patricia is also expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 8-12 inches which could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. Excerpt from the announcement below:

Hurricane Patricia is now being classified as a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane, and is expected to make landfall on Friday, October 23, 2015, along the coast of Michoacan, Colima (which includes Manzanillo), Jalisco (which includes Puerto Vallarta),and/or Nayarit.  It is now considered one of the most powerful and dangerous hurricanes in recorded history.  If you are in the hurricane warning area, make preparations immediately to protect life and property.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an updated Hurricane Warning for the Pacific Coast of Mexico from San Blas, Nayarit, to Punta San Telmo, Michoacan (see http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/?epac).   A hurricane watch is in effect for east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan.  A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for east of Punta San Telmo to Lazaro Cardenas and north of San Blas to El Roblito, Nayarit.

The center of Hurricane Patricia is expected to make landfall in the hurricane warning area Friday afternoon or evening.  Hurricane Patricia is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches, over the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero starting today into Saturday, October 24.  These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods, mud slides (especially in areas of mountainous terrain), and high winds up to 200 MPH that could result in downed power lines. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding, accompanied by large and destructive waves.  Swells may cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.  As Hurricane Patricia moves inland, it will continue to produce heavy rainfall, wind, and dangerous conditions.  Persons located inland in the path of Hurricane Patricia should take appropriate measures to ensure their safety, particularly those located in areas prone to flooding or mudslides. NOAA recommends that residents in low-lying areas near the coast in the hurricane warning area evacuate immediately.

We strongly encourage you to monitor media reports and the Mexican government’s civil protection (“Protección Civil”) website, http://www.proteccioncivil.gob.mx, for updated information about the storm and to follow official instructions.  Stay clear of beaches, as rough seas associated with storm conditions create severe hazards.  Stay clear of downed power lines.  Take precautions against the effects of rain, strong winds, and large and destructive waves. We strongly encourage you to take shelter as advised by Mexican authorities or at any time you feel you are in danger.

Read more here.

image from noaa.gov

image from noaa.gov

Periodic updates are also available on the websites for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara.

You may alert the embassy to U.S. citizens affected by the storm, by sending an email to PatriciaEmergencyUSC@state.gov or CDJPatriciaTF@state.gov and providing as much information as possible.  You can also use the following contact numbers

  • +52-656-227-3105 (From Mexico),
  • 1-888-407-4747 (From the United States and Canada),
  • +1-202-501-4444 (From all other countries)

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Burn Bag: A weekend on lockdown, whataboutyou?

Posted: 12:01 pm  EDT
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Via Burn Bag:

While the Danger Pay Working Group contemplates denying Danger Pay to Mexico border posts, consulate staff in Guadalajara spent the weekend on lockdown and the narco violence related security incidents in Matamoros have gone up fourfold.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05

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US Missions China and Mexico: The One Million Visa Applicants Club

It’s not the end of the the fiscal year yet, but the State Department just announced that the US Mission in China (Embassy Beijing, USCG Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang) has processed more than one million visa applications to date. US Mission Brazil is reportedly on track to become the third member of this very small club.

Consular Officers at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and our four consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang have processed more than one million visa applications to date in fiscal year 2012 while reducing the wait time for a visa interview appointment to approximately one week.

This extraordinary accomplishment represents visa processing growth of almost 43% over the same period last fiscal year, when we had processed just over 675,000 visa applications in China.

To achieve this, we increased staff, improved workflow, implemented a new pilot program waiving the in-person interview requirement in certain instances, and undertook other changes to our procedures – without compromising border security.

We are implementing permanent solutions to keep us ahead of the growing visa demand for years to come. During a June trip to China, the Department’s top consular official, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs, cut the ribbon on a reopened annex to our Embassy in Beijing, greatly increasing visa interview capacity.

China is not the only place where the State Department has achieved great success in meeting dramatic increases in visa demand. In Brazil, we have processed almost 44% more visa applications so far in FY 2012 than we did during the same period last year. In Mexico, we have processed 36% more visa applications. China and Mexico are the only two U.S. Missions that process more than one million visa applications each year, although Brazil is on track to become the third.

The accomplishments announced today reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment towards increasing U.S. jobs by encouraging more people to visit our country. For more information on the Obama Administration’s recent efforts to increase travel and tourism, please see http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/10/obama-administration-continues-efforts-increase-travel-and-tourism-unite.

The current wait time for NIV appointments across consular posts in China is between 2-3 days.   In Mexico City, it is 24 days. Last month, USCG Guadalajara, Mexico made it as the top #8 consular post on wait time at 47 days (h/t to Consular Corner).  In Brasilia, the wait time is one day.

In related news, applicants in the UAE complained of long wait to schedule visa appointments a year after the US consulate moved to a bigger facility in Bur Dubai that was supposed to make the process smoother (see Disgruntled residents call for speedier US visit visas). Abu Dhabi currently has a 36-day wait while Dubai has 28 days.  That’s still way faster than Havana, currently the top post on wait time at 999 days.

Domani Spero