Saturday, June 14, 2008

US: No Central Tracking of Americans Murdered in Mexico

Courtesy of CNSNews.com, By Penny Starr
Senior Staff Writer
June 13, 2008

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. State Department does not do centralized oversight of the criminal cases arising from the murders of U.S. citizens in Mexico.

The U.S. embassy and consulates in Mexico are responsible for monitoring the cases, but they are not required to report back to Washington about them. As a result, State Department officials in Washington cannot say whether Mexican authorities have arrested or convicted anyone in the cases of the more than 100 Americans murdered in that country over a three-year period.

"Offices in our Mission to Mexico (the embassy, 9 consulates, and consular agencies) gather and monitor information about criminal proceedings in cases where Americans are victims, including many cases where family members may ask for assistance in following those proceedings," a State Department official told Cybercast News Service Wednesday.

However, the official said that requiring the consulates and other agencies to report back to Washington on these cases would distract staff from efforts to help Americans in Mexico.

"The Department does not centralize these efforts, instead allowing our offices to focus their attention on providing consular services to American citizens rather than on reporting to Washington," the official told Cybercast News Service.

Cybercast News Service has been investigating the deaths of U.S. citizens in Mexico, which the State Department referred to in a travel alert that was initially posted on its Web site in April and that is still listed as current as of today. The alert says that "dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007." (See alert)

"U.S. citizens are urged to be especially alert to safety and security concerns when visiting the border region," the alert says.
The alert also says: "Criminals are armed with a wide array of sophisticated weapons. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles."

Statistics from the Current Report of Non-Natural Death Cases Abroad (January 1, 2005-December 31, 2007) show that 128 U.S. citizens were either murdered or executed in Mexico. A majority of those murders (68) took place in Mexican cities on the U.S. border, and another 12 took place elsewhere in Mexican states bordering the U.S. (See report)

In contrast to its protocol for handling murder cases in Mexico, the State Department regularly publishes detailed reports on other human rights violations in countries around the world, including a 292-page report on human trafficking it released this month. In an introduction to the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it is the eighth such report and the "most comprehensive to date," covering 170 countries.

"We are pleased that in the seven years since the creation of the Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the United States and our friends and allies have made important strides in confronting the reality that human beings continue to be bought and sold in the 21st century," Rice wrote.

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