Cartel gunfire closes United States consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

The United States consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico closed temporarily on Monday after drug cartel violence erupted nearby. The violence across the city is linked to the arrest of a local cartel leader, according to reports. 

Mexico’s Secretary of Defense on Monday announced the capture of Juan Gerardo Treviño Chávez “El Huevo” (The Egg) in a neighborhood close to the U.S. border with Laredo, Texas. Treviño Chávez is the alleged leader of the Cártel del Noreste (Northeast Cartel), a splinter group of the Zetas cartel, and nephew of Miguel Angel Treviño “Z40”, a founding member of the Zetas who has been jailed in Mexico since his capture in 2013. 

Treviño Chávez is wanted by Mexican authorities for homicide, terrorism and extortion, and facing extradition for drug trafficking and money laundering according to the Secretary of Defense. 

In protest of the kingpin’s arrest, cartel members blockaded parts of the city, set fire to tractor trailers and shot at Mexican police for several hours, paralyzing the city, according to Vice News. Local journalists and citizens shared videos of burned out vehicles and gunfights on social media. 

Local media also reported that armed men fired on military installations and the offices of the United States Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, in addition to clashes in various parts of the city. 

The U.S. Mission to Mexico announced that it was suspending consular services until further notice and urged citizens in the area to seek shelter. 

“We are aware of reports of gunfire near the U.S. Consulate, and reports of firefights in locations throughout Nuevo Laredo between Mexican authorities and armed members of criminal organizations,” the report read. “U.S. government employees have been instructed to avoid the area and shelter in place until further notice.  U.S. citizens should avoid the area or continue to shelter in place.”

U.S. Mission to Mexico

The Consular Agency in Piedras Negras, a border town two hours north of Nuevo Laredo, will also be closed on March 15 according to authorities. 

The violence witnessed Monday morning in Nuevo Laredo is reminiscent of the fury that erupted in Culiacan, Sinaloa in October 2019 after the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán López, the son of jailed Sinaloa Cartel boss Juaquin Guzmán Loera “El Chapo”. 

Just hours after his detention Ovidio was set free by security forces for fear that the situation in Sinaloa’s capital would spiral out of control. Months later, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador admitted that he’d given the order to release El Chapo’s son, casting doubt over the president’s ability to rein in drug cartels. 

It is not clear at this time if the Cártel del Noreste has made any specific demands.