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Mexico vows tighter border security after US move

The State Department has repeatedly warned Americans not to travel to Nuevo Laredo

MEXICO CITY – Mexico promised to tighten security on its U.S. border after Washington closed a consulate in the lawless city of Nuevo Laredo because police have failed to curb spiraling violence.

President Vicente Fox’s spokesman said tougher measures would soon be taken in the fight against warring drug cartels along the border.

«Yesterday there was a Cabinet-level security meeting and the president gave instructions to radicalize the operation and raise its efficiency,» said spokesman Ruben Aguilar.

He gave no details, except to rule out a curfew in Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.

Still, Aguilar reiterated Mexico’s objection to the closing of the U.S. Consulate, saying it was an extreme measure.

More than 100 people have been killed this year in Nuevo Laredo. Most of the deaths were linked to the drug trade, including 18 police officers.

U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza last week ordered the consulate temporarily closed after rival drug gangs clashed with bazookas, hand grenades and automatic weapons in a battle that raged for 20 minutes. He said he would only reopen it if the security situation improved.

The State Department has repeatedly warned Americans not to travel to Nuevo Laredo.

Mexico launched a security program along the border in June after gunmen killed the city’s new police chief hours after he was sworn in.

Authorities suspended the entire local police force for possible links to the drug trade and army troops and federal police took over the city, a trade hub.

But the violence continued unabated. In the latest killing, on Monday, an unidentified man was found dead with a single shot to the back of the neck.