US consulate in Ciudad Juarez closes for security

US embassy announced it will reschedule appointments for visa applications.

Mexico City: The US closed its consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez on Thursday pending a security review, an unexpected decision that comes months after drug gangs killed three people tied to the consulate.

The US embassy announced the consulate will "remain closed until the security review is completed" and said it would reschedule appointments for visa applications.

The embassy did not say what prompted the review, and a spokesman said there would be no comment beyond the statement.

A US employee of the consulate, her husband and a Mexican tied to the consulate were killed March 13 when drug gang fired on their cars as they left a children`s party in the city across from El Paso, Texas.

The US State Department has taken several measures over the past months to protect consulate employees and their families from surging violence along Mexico`s border with the United States.

It has authorised the departure of relatives of US government employees in six northern Mexican cities. And starting July 15, US government employees working away from the border were barred from crossing anywhere along Texas` border because of safety concerns.

Two weeks ago, the consulate in the border city of Nuevo Laredo warned US citizens there to remain indoors as drug gangs fought gunbattles and blocked streets with hijacked vehicles.

The closing of the Ciudad Juarez consulate is the most drastic security measure yet. The consulate is the only place where Mexicans applying for US residency can go.

The embassy warned immigrant visa applicants that the medical clinics where they receive exams as part of their applications "may also close on short notice”. It said its call centre would call applicants to reschedule appointments, and provided a number that US citizens could call for passport appointment and other services.

Bureau Report