Texas warns against travel to Mexican border town

Reuters News

7/2/2011 12:48:46 PM - Reuters News

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The state of Texas warned U.S. citizens on Saturday to stay away from the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, over the July 4 weekend, saying that the violent Zetas drug cartel was targeting vacationers there.

"According to the information we have received, the Zetas are planning a possible surge in criminal activity, such as robberies, extortions, car-jackings and vehicle theft, specifically against U.S. citizens," said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, in a press release.

McCraw said U.S. citizens should avoid Nuevo Laredo during the Fourth of July holiday. The city is across the Rio Grande river from Laredo, Texas.

Texas has previously warned Americans about travel to Mexico during holidays and other peak vacations times.

The latest bulletin comes just weeks after a complaint from Mexico's tourism chief Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, who said some of the warnings are "ludicrous" and "misinformed."

High-profile violence has stained the image of Mexico's large tourist centers, although the majority of violence tends to happen away from tourist destinations.

More than 37,000 people have been killed in Mexico since late 2006 when President Felipe Calderon sent the armed forces to crush powerful drug cartels battling for lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.

The U.S. State Department says 111 Americans were reported murdered in Mexico last year, up from 35 in 2007.

(Writing by Kyle Peterson; Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune)