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2 Americans and a third victim are killed in Mexico shootings

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Two cars leaving a party come under fire in Ciudad Juarez. A baby in the back seat of one car survives unscathed, but her parents are dead.

March 15, 2010|By Tracy Wilkinson and Richard A. Serrano

This was a particularly deadly weekend in Mexico. Thirteen people were killed around the popular beach resort of Acapulco, and 20 others died in fighting elsewhere in the state of Guerrero.

Eight people were slain at a birthday party for a farmer in the drug-producing state of Sinaloa.

In recent months, the most high-profile slaying of an American took place on New Year's Eve, when an official from El Monte, Calif., was killed with five other men when they were kidnapped from a bar in the Durango state city of Gomez Palacio. The official, popular educator Bobby Salcedo, was in Mexico visiting his wife's relatives for the holidays.

Bloodshed in Ciudad Juarez has surged as the Juarez drug cartel, which traditionally controlled the area, battles a takeover attempt by traffickers loyal to Sinaloa-based kingpin Joaquin Guzman. Calderon traveled to the city twice last month to promise to restore safety.

But beleaguered citizens say their complaints fall on deaf ears and they live in terror.

Calderon's government has been especially sensitive to the damage that bloodshed has done to his country's image and at times seeks to downplay the extent of the violence. A Foreign Ministry official said the decision to authorize removal of U.S. government dependents was "worrisome."

Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said he understood the U.S. fears prompting the decision.

But he said the consulate, which had to close briefly because of a bomb threat, has strong security. "It is one of the most heavily guarded places in the city," Reyes told CNN's Spanish-language service.

In Washington, the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs on Sunday reiterated a travel warning for Americans going to Mexico and those living there.

"Recent violent attacks have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states . . . and advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution," the warning said.

The warning, in effect until April 12, also authorized the departure of U.S. dependents of government consular officials in border cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo. The major difference between this warning and one Feb. 22 was the authorization for dependents to leave Mexico.

"Violence in the country has increased," the warning stated. "It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks in Mexico [and] how best to avoid dangerous situations."

The warning added: "The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted."

wilkinson@latimes.com

richard.serrano @latimes.com

A special correspondent in Ciudad Juarez contributed to this report.

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