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Tijuana Mayor Wants U.S. State Department To Reconsider Mexico Travel Alert

Tijuana's Mayor, Jorge Ramos, wants the U.S. State Department to omit warnings about violence in Tijuana from future travel alerts on Mexico.

Earlier this week, the state department issued a travel alert that continues to urge U.S. citizens who visit Mexican border cities to exercise caution. The alert, which replaces one issued six months ago, states again that drug cartels are battling among themselves and with Mexican security forces to control drug smuggling routes along the U.S.-Mexico border. It advises that large drug cartel firefights occur mostly in northern Mexico, including in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Ramos says it's unfair to lump Tijuana in with border cities like Ciudad Juarez because Mexican law enforcement has made progress fighting crime in Tijuana.

Ramos was in Washington D.C. for a U.S.-Mexico binational meeting on reducing drug demand. At the meeting, Ramos invited the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to visit Tijuana again to see for himself law enforcement's success.

The updated alert does delete Tijuana from a list of cities where there has been a notable spike in crimes including robberies, homicides and carjackings. However, northern Baja California is still on the list.

Also absent from the new alert is the clause, "Although the greatest increase of violence has occurred on the Mexican side of the U.S. border," which was previously at the beginning of a sentence warning U.S. citizens to exercise caution and be vigilant in unfamiliar areas in Mexico.

However, the alert goes on to say, "Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales are among the cities which have experienced public shootouts during daylight hours in shopping centers and other public venues. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana."

Baja California's Secretary of Tourism Oscar Escobedo says he is very disappointed that the State Department's revisions weren't more substantial. He says he thought the U.S.-Mexico relationship had advanced.

Escobedo says Baja Calfiornia spent $500,000 last year on a U.S. public relations firm and a San Diego marketing group to help boost tourism to Baja California. Escobedo says Mexico's federal government matched the state's expenditure. He was in Mexico City on Tuesday to secure the same funding for 2010.

Escobedo says the public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard, and San Diego marketing group, 1st Strike Creative, targeted U.S. media outlets last year. He says the next stage is the political process, including a visit to the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. State Department revises the Mexico travel alert twice a year, which means an update will next occur in August. Mexico is one of five countries for which the State Department has issued alerts. The others are India, Niger, Malaysia and the Philippines. Alerts are milder than "warnings" which the State Department issues for countries such as Iraq and Pakistan.

Travel alerts advise people of short-term security conditions in a country. Travel warnings discuss long-term conditions.

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