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Tijuana's Frontera newspaper Wednesday published a letter on Page 2 from the U.S. consul correcting Saturday's false front-page headline, which had said last week's U.S. State Department travel warning for Mexico encouraged U.S. officials to use armored vehicles in Baja California.
The U.S. consul in Tijuana, James Steven Kashkett, wrote the paper that the warning's section on Baja California mentions nothing about armored vehicles. He also noted that the warning only recommends that Americans visiting Tijuana take precautions.
El Mexicano and Frontera reported Wednesday that Kashkett told the state Public Safety Council during its monthly meeting in Tijuana on Tuesday that it was impressive to see how the federal, state and local governments were working together to improve the security situation in Baja California. He said that was reflected in last week's travel warning. While the warning encouraged Americans to defer non-essential travel to many areas of Mexico, it made no such recommendation about travel to Baja California. El Mexicano reported falsely on Tuesday that the warning had recommended that Americans not visit Tijuana. Attending Tuesday's meeting were Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán and Baja California's five mayors. Frontera's report on the meeting. An item on Page 6A in El Mexicano pointed out that Kashkett had taken Frontera to task on its front-page armored vehicle mistake. The item also noted that Kashkett pointed out that the warning said nothing about recommending that Americans not visit Tijuana, without, however, mentioning El Mexicano's own front-page goof on the matter.
The new San Diego border news network San Diego Red (Red means network in Spanish) also said in a headline that the alert warned Americans not to visit Tijuana. Its incorrect headline read, "Advierten no visitar México, incluyendo Tijuana."
UPDATE, Thursday, April 28: Frontera runs article datelined Rosarito about Kashkett and the travel alert. Kashkett is quoted as saying that most people who criticize the travel alert never have read the text of it, and said newspaper headlines about the subject are unable to show the context and reality of the alert.
The U.S. State Department's travel warning about Mexico received widespread play in the Mexican media. The department said U.S. government employees in Sinaloa state and in and around Nogales in Sonora state should travel in armored vehicles. Although the warning did not mention armored vehicles in the context of Baja California, Tijuana's Frontera newspaper reported that it did and put that angle on a screaming headline on its front page. Frontera's front page. Frontera's main story. El Mexicano, running the same El Universal story that Frontera did, put the armored vehicle angle on its front page headline, without mentioning Baja California.
Here is what the warning did say about Baja California and the threat from transnational criminal organizations, or TCOs:
"Northern Baja California: Targeted TCO assassinations continue to take place in Northern Baja California, including the city of Tijuana. You should exercise caution in this area, particularly at night. In late 2010, turf battles between criminal groups proliferated and resulted in numerous assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours throughout the city. In one such incident, an American citizen was shot and seriously wounded."
The report also said: "More than a third of all U.S. citizens killed in Mexico in 2010 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. government were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana."
Here is what the warning said about using armored vehicles:
"The U.S. Consulate requires that armored vehicles are used for official travel in the consular district of Nogales, including certain areas within the city of Nogales.... When traveling in Sinaloa, U.S. government employees are required to use armored vehicles and may only travel in daylight hours." The warning said that under restrictions imposed last year, "U.S. government employees and their families are not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. Travel by vehicle is permitted between Hermosillo and Nogales."
The warning said of Sonora state: "The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity. You should defer non-essential travel to these areas.
"You are advised to exercise caution when visiting the coastal town of Puerto Peñasco."
The warning also said: "Due to ongoing violence and persistent security concerns, you are urged to defer non-essential travel to the states of Tamaulipas and Michoacán, and to parts of the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco." Baja California was not included in this list. Michoacán is President Felipe Calderón's home state.
In general, the report encourages visitors to travel during the daytime, avoid any ostentation of wealth and to park in well-traveled areas.