The Associated Press released a report on Monday October 13, 2008 concerning a recent attack on the US Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. According to the report, unidentified assailants fired shots and threw one grenade at the Consulate building early Sunday October 12th. The grenade failed to explode. The same day two grenades were thrown at the Public Safety Office in Guadalajara.
These reports are disconcerning because a lot of tourist and guestworker visas are processed at the Monterrey facility. In fact, the US Consulate in Monterrey is the largest processor of guestworker visas in the world. In the past few years, their flow of visa applicants in a day has ranged from 200 to 2000. The U.S. State Department has in recent years attempted to distribute the numbers of guestworker visa applicants to other US Consulate locations around Mexico. Some of the cities where these Consulate posts are located have very significant crime rates. Employers of these guestworkers are concerned about the safety of their employees. Assailants know that applicants that are going to the Consulate may be carrying significant amounts of money to pay various fees to receive a guestworker visa and they target these individuals. We are aware of some past incidents where applicants have been beaten and robbed, although that number of attacks is very low. As violence on the U.S.- Mexico border increases involving shootouts between U.S. border patrol agents and drug lords, it is hard to pinpoint a concerted effort by our leaders to make our border and it’s Consulate posts within Mexico safer. Our southern border becomes a more volatile and dangerous place and Mexico as a nation looks more and more out of control each day.
Visa service was suspended on Thursday after more gunshots were heard nearby, combat-ready police surrounded the facility. Tony Garza, the US Ambassador to Mexico had this to say to the San Antonio Express-News after visiting the Monterrey post,
“They will find that it was a mistake to target a United States consulate,” he said in a statement. “No one should believe they can attack a United States government facility with impunity.”
Security has been reinforced at Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez Consulate posts. It is unclear how aggressively Mexican and US officials will try to prevent this violence from happening again. It is however evident that Mexico has a severe problem with violence and homicide country wide, including decapitation, which is disturbingly common. In speaking with some residents of Mexico, their thought is that the presence of law enforcement in some Mexican cities is an afterthought rather than a constant.