Yesterday the delegate of the Mexican Foreign Office, Eduardo Rodriguez, confirmed that the closing of the U.S. Consulate was due to the threat of a car bomb. On Thursday morning the Consulate was evacuated after it received a bomb threat, and a decision was made later to close the Consulate indefinitely. For story in Diario, click here. The U.S. State Department at first simply stated they had closed the Consulate for a "security review" without stating the cause, perhaps not wishing to cause undue alarm. However, this morning citizens have been warned to stay away from the immediate area surrounding the building.
The U.S. Consulate is located in an area known as the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), a newly developed, wealthy sector in Cd. Juarez, just East of Triunfo de la Republica, a major artery which continues to the airport. The Consulate is the major economic engine for this sector of town, inasmuch as every citizen in Mexico who wishes to obtain a permanent resident visa to the U.S. must interview in person there, and many thousands of persons visit the Consulate each year for other kinds of visas. Nearly 2000 applications of one kind or another are processed there daily and it is estimated that one million persons enter the building each year. It is the largest U.S. Consulate in the world.
Given the escalating violence over the past two years, the Consulate was one of the few places left in Juarez drawing large daily concentrations of people, and the area is surrounded by ten hotels, at least 20 restaurants, a major shopping mall (Las Misiones, with about 50 businesses and a movie complex), bars, and other establishments that cater to Mexicans from out of town who have business at the Consulate. As long as the Consulate remains closed, these businesses are likely to suffer huge losses, and hundreds of jobs are in jeopardy.
Perhaps even more important, if one wanted to do something that would emphasize the lack of normality in Juarez, that would underscore the relative impotence of law enforcement to provide security, and that would stimulate even more widespread fear in the city, it is hard to imagine an act more efficient at doing so than this one.
This morning the municipal government announced it would begin inspecting all vehicles entering the parking lot of the municipal building and other high-profile facilities in the city. Yesterday El Norte, a daily newspaper, received a false bomb threat which disrupted business there. The threat of car bombings has now engulfed Cd. Juarez, placing it for the moment in the same category as Bogota, Colombia, some years back, Beirut, Lebanon, for many years, Baghdad, and other notorious places. Until now most Juarenses continued to believe if they weren't involved in drug trafficking or the victim of extortion, the violence was highly unlikely to strike them, except as a lightning stroke of bad luck. The threat of car bombing, which can kill dozens of bystanders, has just changed the equation of fear in Cd. Juarez.
Meanwhile seven persons were killed Friday afternoon; four in a barbershop in Col. San Felipe del Real; and three in front of a residential home in Col. Postal.