Employees of U.S. Consulate General Monterrey (a non-danger post) face credible security threat in Mexico

Posted: 2:12 pm ET
Updated: 4:30 pm ET
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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:

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USCG Monterrey: USG Personnel Banned From Driving Between Post-U.S. Border, Also Extortions Up by 24%

Posted: 2:58 am EDT
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In the new Crime and Safety Report for Monterrey, Mexico, Diplomatic Security notes that U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border.

Violent crime (kidnappings, extortions, homicides, sexual assaults, personal robberies, residential break-ins), and non-violent crimes (financial scams, vehicle thefts, petty drug crimes) continue to be a serious concern for those living or working in Monterrey’s Consular District.

USCG Monterrey’s consular district covers the following states: Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Durango, Zacatecas, and the southern two-thirds of Coahuila. The consular district has nearly 13 million inhabitants and almost the size of Texas.  There are an estimated estimated 85,000 American Citizens who are permanent resident in the consular district. Although reported homicides in 2015 declined in all states of Monterrey’s consular district, except Zacatecas, compared to the same time periods in 2013 and 2014. In Zacatecas, 420 homicides occurred in 2015, up from 294 in 2014.

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 January 19 Travel Warning notes that the Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees’ travel in Mexico. At least since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. Personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted during daylight hours on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales, on Highway 45 between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, and on the main roads between Palomas, Chihuahua and Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

USCG Monterrey is a 15% hardship pay post with zero COLA, and zero danger pay.

 

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HOGR Hearing: Violence on the Border, Keeping U.S. Personnel Safe

Posted: 2:47 pm EDT
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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on September 9, to examine the efforts to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and assets in northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Committee notes on its introduction the risks posed to U.S. personnel and the public by the criminal violence in northern Mexico are numerous including:

  • February 2015the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros reported 227 separate security incidents in the U.S. border region.
  • May 2015two government buildings in Matamoros were struck by bomb attacks. 
  • June 2015a gunman on the Mexican side of the border fired multiple shots at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter. 
  • June 2015a U.S.-contracted vehicle was hijacked by armed criminals which resulted in the theft of over 11,500 Border Crossing Cards.

The video is available here. The witnesses include three officials from the State Department (DS, OBO, WHA), an official from DHS/CBP, and a representative from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).  There is no representative from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) in this hearing.

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U.S. Mission Mexico | Border Posts

William H. Moser Deputy Director, Bureau of Overseas Building Operations U.S. Department of State Document
Gregory B. Starr Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Diplomatic Security U.S. Department of State Document
Sue Saarnio Deputy Assistant Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs U.S. Department of State Document
Robert L. Harris Director, Joint Task Force – West U.S. Customs and Border Protection Document
Brandon Judd President, National Border Patrol Council American Federation of Government Employees Document

The hearing is also available here via C-SPAN.

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Snapshot: Top Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Posts FY2012

Via travel.state.gov:

Via travel.state.gov

Via travel.state.gov

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