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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 16:13 GMT
Mexico raps US warning on safety
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez
Mr Derbez was unimpressed by Washington's alert
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez has said a US state department warning to Americans travelling along the Mexican border is "exaggerated".

His comments came after US ambassador Tony Garza said he was concerned that drug-related violence in the border area could affect trade and tourism.

The state department said US citizens should be aware of the risks involved.

But Mr Derbez said Mexico had proved it was successfully fighting violence and drug-trafficking in the region.

He said the US had made an "erroneous" assessment that was "outside the scope of reality".

The state department alert, issued on Wednesday, said there had been an escalation of fighting among drug cartels along Mexico's border with the US.

Mr Garza, the US ambassador in Mexico City, also raised the issue in a letter to Mr Derbez and the country's attorney-general.

"Although Americans do not appear to be the specific targets of the crimes, the elevated level of violence generally has resulted in greater risks to the thousands of American citizens visiting and passing through the border region every day," he wrote.

"Increased numbers of murdered and kidnapped Americans in recent months bear this out."

Armed Mexican police have been patrolling the border cities of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, in an effort to crack down on the drug gangs.

The authorities' escalating battle with the drug traffickers has spread to some of the country's biggest prisons, where convicted traffickers have allegedly continued to run their illegal businesses from their cells with the help of corrupt warders.

Last week, Mexico's three top-security jails were placed on maximum alert after the murder of six prison officers at the Matamoros penitentiary.

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