MEXICO CITY — U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza's comment that he closed a consulate in part to punish Mexico's government for border violence drew a sharp response Wednesday from Mexico.
Deputy Foreign Secretary Geronimo Gutierrez said Mexico's government agreed that Garza had to work for the security of U.S. citizens, but said: "His selection of words was frankly unfortunate and does not correspond to the role of an ambassador."
Garza's comment, Tuesday night at the University of Denver, followed a series of criticisms of Mexico's ability to secure the border region. Mexican officials have argued that the United States shares responsibility for a problem ignited by drug consumption north of the border.
Early this month, Garza closed the Nuevo Laredo consulate for a week after dozens of drug-related killings, the assassination of the police chief and a machine-gun, grenade and rocket attack on an alleged drug safe house.
Garza said at the time that the closure was to let officials "assess the security situation" for employees, consulate visitors and Americans in the area.
On Tuesday, Garza expanded on the reasons: "Some have said that I ordered the shutdown to punish the Mexican government for its failure to control violence in the region," Garza said. "And in a sense that's true....
"I've been clear: My primary responsibility as ambassador is the safety of United States citizens," he added.
This year, he requested that the State Department issue three travel advisories alerting Americans to violence in the border region.