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dmhaun


Nov 19, 2010, 8:35 AM

Post #1 of 39 (10360 views)

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Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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My two brothers and I returned to Texas from Mexico, yesterday, Nov. 18. The trip was even more carefree than the drive south. There were neither military nor police checks from Lake Patzcuaro until US immigration in Texas. There were a few Federal Police cars checking for speeders but going 80mph didn’t seem to interest them. The cuotas were not crowded and the helpful Green Angels, abundant. More and more Pemex Rest Stations have WiFi and free Internet service.
This was our scientific discovery. We checked mileage both directions at Colombia bridge at Interstate 35 and at the Columbia bridge on Highway #2 outside Nuevo Laredo. South, we drove through Laredo, to N. Laredo, to the Colombia bridge and checked mileage of 43 miles. Returning north, we took mileage at Colombia Bridge, drove to Colombia and took the “Sanchez” Texas Toll road, up to Interstate 35 and checked mileage at 58 miles. It is 15 miles longer to use the Colombia crossing than N. Laredo crossing. However, we were the only vehicles in line at Colombia crossing into Texas, while there were very long lines at Laredo.
We saw a lot of Mexico, driving the back roads of Michoacan to the guitar museum in Paracho and the home/studios to view the mystical, devilish figurines in Ocumicho. We lusted after the ceramic pineapples at Patamban, purchased a raku, 5 ft. tall pot from Cocucho, gazed at the pristine Lake of Zirahuen, were thunderstruck at the volcano Paricutin, enjoyed macadamia-nut-encrusted trout from the tanks of the National Water-Park in Uruapan, devoured pork carnitas with fresh tortillas in Quiroga, savored Pasta ice cream on the Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro, (not elbow macaroni flavor, but creamed almonds), we revered the marigold covered graveyards of Lake Patzcuaro, hunted for Day of the Dead Catrina dolls in Capula, we paid our respects to Santa Muerte in Capitiro, prayed to the Growing Jesus in Tzintzuntzan and found an unmapped road, directly north of Lake Patzcuaro, that bypasses Morelia. It is winter in the mountains around Lake Patzcuaro with warm days and chilly nights. The air at 7,200 feet is clean and crisp. Everyone agrees that Michoacan is magical. Feliz viaje, David
The Michoacan Net
Supporting the Arts in Michoacan
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Michoacan_net/

(This post was edited by dmhaun on Nov 21, 2010, 6:42 AM)



Altahabana


Nov 20, 2010, 11:06 AM

Post #2 of 39 (10247 views)

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Re: [dmhaun] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Not only is Columbia Bridge a longer route, but it is the route more likely to give a motorist a first hand exprience with the narco insurgency, even if it is only a slight risk. It's ironic that local residents avoid Highway 2 while ex-pats and mexophiles in search of the shorter lines flock to it.


sally.bender

Nov 20, 2010, 2:43 PM

Post #3 of 39 (10216 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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This is a great post and I do not understand how or why you decided to turn it negative.


dmhaun


Nov 20, 2010, 2:56 PM

Post #4 of 39 (10213 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Thank you Sally. The point I was trying to make was that three tourists, 2 twins and 1 older brother, average age 70, drove the backroads of Mexico and Michoacan, doing fun things, seeing unimaginable beauty while discovering new unmapped roads and loving every second of it. Viva Mexico! Feliz viaje, David
.
The Michoacan Net
Supporting the Arts in Michoacan
http://www.LakePatzcuaro.org



RickS


Nov 22, 2010, 8:50 AM

Post #5 of 39 (10102 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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I looked at Altahabana's response less critical than you. To me, 'he' has a unique and useful perspective of the current conditions in that part (Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas) of Mexico. AND he presents it in a non-threatening/non authoritarian way.... very professional. I, for one, look for his posts (about the conditions on the ground) to help me understand 'how things are going'.

I also took his 'Columbia crossing' comment to mean "folks, this may have been a decent option to crossing at Laredo proper in the past, but right now it sends one through an area that locals-in-the-know avoid". Since many NOB types making a entry/exit trip (like the OP) might not know or think about this, Altahabana was giving a public service announcement... or so it seemed to me. YMMV


Rolly


Nov 22, 2010, 9:06 AM

Post #6 of 39 (10096 views)

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Re: [RickS] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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I agree. Altahabana is by far the most knowledgeable person on this board about current conditions in the northeastern part of México. If he says avoid a place, I'll follow his advice.

Rolly Pirate


chinagringo


Nov 22, 2010, 9:15 AM

Post #7 of 39 (10091 views)

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Re: [dmhaun] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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In August of '09, we had planned to spend five days driving the back roads visiting towns & villages in Michoacan. One day, we made a 200+ mile drive leaving Patzcuaro and heading out through San Francisco Pichataro, Paracho, Cocucho, Patamban, San Jose de Gracia before cutting back towards Quiroga and on to Tzintzuntzan before arriving back in Patzcuaro. An absolutely wonderful day of experiencing, learning and enjoying! While having an "adult beverage" at our hotel, I fired up the laptop to read that the US had issued a travel warning that very day for travel in Michoacan. In the release, it was suggested to stay off the back roads of Michoacan and only travel the cuotas.

In spite of my learned negative reactions to the US travel warnings, it did make us cognizant of the fact that we may have been traveling through "bad boy country". On our furthers explorations, I was more aware and far less complacent about what might be happening around us. This was after the shooting of the Federale police station in Patzcuaro and we did notice a stronger presence especially on a Saturday afternoon passing through Tzintzuntzan.

I, for one, appreciate first person local reports as they provide a piece of the puzzle to evaluate. This is the reality and shouldn't be criticized as being negative just as the so-called positive report shouldn't be be as being too "peaches & cream".
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



(This post was edited by chinagringo on Nov 22, 2010, 9:18 AM)


Altahabana


Nov 22, 2010, 12:14 PM

Post #8 of 39 (10053 views)

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Re: [Rolly] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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My comment was not directed at the part of the post that related the OP's experience in the interior---it was directed solely to the Columbia bridge crossing. My point was that in the present situation the decision about where to cross in the Laredo corridor has more factors than just distance and lines.


careyeroslib

Nov 22, 2010, 12:21 PM

Post #9 of 39 (10052 views)

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Re: [dmhaun] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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I also agree that Altahabana's post appeared to be a public service annoucement regarding the Columbia Bridge.

Whenever we drive across the borders in northeastern Mexico, we take Altahabana's advice regarding routes. We used to take Columbia bridge but no more. A route that is farther and potentially more dangerous makes the longer wait at the other bridges in Laredo look, to us, like a better option.

The trip report was also appreciated though. Thank you David, and glad your trip was pleasant.


sally.bender

Nov 23, 2010, 10:20 AM

Post #10 of 39 (9970 views)

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Re: [Rolly] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Hola Rolly, I have always respected you and have nearly memorized everything you have written about life in Mexico. However, I can not agree with you giving Altahabana a pass about his Colombia Bridge statements. What he writes does not jive with reality. We know that all border areas, anywhere in the world, are places of transition and can be hotbeds of activity. But look the facts.
The original post, and many others, have stated "they were the only vehicles in line at the Colombia bridge," yet Altahabana writes " local residents avoid Highway 2 while ex-pats and mexophiles in search of the shorter lines flock to it." There have never been reports nor evidence of groups of people flocking to the Colombia crossing. Quite the contrary, it has been empty since the old days when Tony Sanchez opened the toll road on the Texas side. Years ago, he had to "give" his privately built toll road to the state of Texas because the Colombia crossing was ignored by cars.
However, a few miles before that bridge at Colombia Bridge #2, trucks are flocking it. The Nuevo Laredo bypass to CBridge is about to be entirely 4-lane and is a heavily traveled route between two major, northern Mexican cities. This is not a deserted, farm to market road. It has an OXO and a Pemex station. May not be locals, but SOMEONE is using that bypass.
As for Altahabana's statement of drivers having "a first hand experience with the narco insurgency...." I presume "first hand" means actual involvement. I must politely ask Altahabana to prove it. How long has it been since there has been a death or injury of American or foreign citizens from the narcos along the 30 mile stretch around Nuevo Laredo, to the Colombia Bridge. I will gladly offer a written apology with I see evidence about personal injuries or deaths along that 50k route. Sincereamente, Sally


Rolly


Nov 23, 2010, 11:27 AM

Post #11 of 39 (9953 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Since he lives in Nuevo Laredo, I accept that he knows more about the area than tourists passing through.
That you have not read about trouble on highway 2, does not mean there hasn't been any.
Are you aware of the cop who runs a speed trap along that highway?

Rolly Pirate


chinagringo


Nov 23, 2010, 1:30 PM

Post #12 of 39 (9939 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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While I have been on record as wanting to know what is going on since I prefer not to have my "head in the sand" or live in denial when making travel plans - one can receive a wake up call when they least expect it! This is especially true when you personally know the victim!

Twice in the past 30 days, we have experienced just that. In one case, the victim is dead and in the other, the victim was relieved of vehicle, all possessions and left on the side of the cuota. Neither was involved in the "narco trade" in any way.
Both happened in a major metropolitan area in northern Mexico. Since some choose to differentiate a difference of validity between incidents that happen to Mexicans as opposed to those that happen to Gringos/foreigners, I will say that one was a Mexican and one was a Gringo. Victims of incidents do not have a nationality - they are quite simply victims and equal weight should be placed on all victims!

And that Folks is my reality check for the day.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



(This post was edited by chinagringo on Nov 23, 2010, 2:42 PM)


Altahabana


Nov 23, 2010, 4:53 PM

Post #13 of 39 (9910 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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How long has it been since there has been a death or injury of American or foreign citizens from the narcos along the 30 mile stretch around Nuevo Laredo, to the Colombia Bridge.

I posted for people who may be wholly unaware of the situation that exists here. I was not trying to persuade anyone. If you want to believe the situation along the Tamaulipas border is of no concern for Americans or foreign citizens, that doesn't bother me. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

Your comments lead me to believe that this problem is for you largely an abstraction. You may even feel it is overblown by the media. If that is how you handle living or traveling in Mexico fine. I try not to let the situation control my life either..

This is what my opinions are based on since you seem so intent on knowing. I would be curious to know what your skepticism is based on. Semi-annual trips?

1. The tail end of the July 16 balacera that left at least ten Zetas dead ended on Highway 2. The Zs who escaped the first initial onslaught made a run for the country and almost made it to the cutoff. The army's handiwork is on display on the internet if you look. But these were not Americans or foreign citizens---just garden variety matones, Zeta cannon fodder for the military.

2. I have a number of friends who work for CBP, some at the World Trade Bridge. They discuss generally what is happening on the other side based on their briefings.

3. I represent two transborder carriers whose base of operations are on Highway 2. They are painfully aware of the problems the narco insurgency presents for their businesses. We discuss them because they impact the US phase of their operations.

4. I am a volunteer warden with the US Consulate in NL. We receive periodic briefings from a liason officer with whom I have become friends.

5. My partner is close friends with the Webb County sheriff. He communicates and coordinates with SENDA concerning security issues presented by balaceras and enfrentamentos between the military and Zetas.

6. My brother-in-law was stopped in a reten just north of Columbia on his way to Eagle Pass three weeks ago and lost his pick-up. I know a couple of other people who claim the same happened to them.

7. There are ALWAYS rumours of incidents, not only on Highway 2 but in widespread areas of the city. Sometimes the rumours turn out to be true.

If someone chooses to use Highway 2--out of stubborness, disbelief, unawareness--I will still continue to avoid it.


Reefhound


Nov 23, 2010, 5:38 PM

Post #14 of 39 (9900 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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  How long has it been since there has been a death or injury of American or foreign citizens from the narcos along the 30 mile stretch around Nuevo Laredo, to the Colombia Bridge.

I think one could issue such a challenge about any road or route through the border area and one would be hard pressed to show much. By that standard, one could declare most of Juarez perfectly safe. It is often hard to get precise data as to location whenever something happens. Of course, the vast majority of travelers do not encounter problems and of those that do most of them are just relieved of their money and maybe their cars, not their life. But still, I personally would rather not be driving along an area that has been known for gun attacks even if those attacks involved cartel on cartel or military on cartel. Those incidents often lead to lots of collateral damage.

The US consulate in Matamoros warns "Travelers should defer unnecessary travel on Mexican Highway 2 between Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo due to the ongoing violent competition between DTOs in that area." Now this is on the other side of Nvo Laredo than Columbia but the reason this road is so dangerous is that it runs along the Mexican side connecting major border cities. Highway 2 on the Columbia side connects to Piedras Negras which has also seen problems with violence. The narcos are like dogs running along the fence line of their yard. Highway 2 is this fence line.

As for ex-pats flocking to Columbia, how many ex-pats cross the border in that area on any given day? I doubt more than a few hundred so they could indeed be flocking to Columbia and the lines be short. Although the last time I used Columbia coming back the line was dozens of cars and about 30 minutes wait. Now if you look at these types of forums it seems about half the ex-pats or more that cross in that area recommend Columbia. Clearly not half of all travelers cross there, not even 10%. So what makes me wonder is what do the locals and nationals know that the ex-pats do not? Why aren't more people crossing at Columbia? It's not like it's a secret crossing.


careyeroslib

Nov 23, 2010, 6:48 PM

Post #15 of 39 (9879 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Thank you Altahabana: Please keep posting. Godspeed.


Altahabana


Nov 24, 2010, 4:52 AM

Post #16 of 39 (9840 views)

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Re: [Reefhound] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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So what makes me wonder is what do the locals and nationals know that the ex-pats do not? Why aren't more people crossing at Columbia? It's not like it's a secret crossing.

Locals and nationals--on both sides of the border---historically haven't used it because it is out of the way and inconvenient. It is primarily a commercial crossing (it is the mandated crossing for Hazardous Cargo entering Mexico) and is located in the narrow strip of Nuevo Leon that borders the US.

The problems that have gradually escalated over the past six months aren't really a factor in why locals and Mexicanos (other than a few from Monterrey travelling to San Antonio and parts north) don't use Columbia as a crossing, but the problems do have much to do with why locals and nationals avoid travelling to Piedras on Highway 2. Most Mexicanos with visas and local US residents who have to travel to Eagle Pass/Piedras now cross in Laredo and take Highway 277/83 in the US. Before the problems I would nearly always use Highway 2.

The stretch of Highway 2 between Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa is much more dangerous, more like a drive through Kandahar province in Afghanistan than through Mexico. The murder of the jet skier on Falcon Lake and the tragedy of Ciudad Mier have focused attention on the area and it continues to be a war zone (Zetas v. Gulf v. Military). It would be absolutely foolish for anyone to drive in that area.

I don't know of any American ( I assume that means non-Hispanics in transit) or foreign citizen who has been killed or injured by narco violence using the Columbia crossing if that is the criteria for defining its safety. But that is a pretty narrow frame of reference and anyone who uses it to me seems to have little understanding of how the Zetas operate, their activites and the impact those activities have on the communities and areas where they are active.




sally.bender

Nov 24, 2010, 11:16 AM

Post #17 of 39 (9778 views)

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Re: [Reefhound] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Don't be absurd. The roads around Juarez are dangerous and there is plenty of documentation to prove it.
You mentioned Reynosa. Please keep on topic. This thread is about the 30-mile bypass around N. Laredo. Yes, Highway 2, south of N. Laredo, is dangerous and there is documentation to prove it. And, yes, there are issues north of the Colombia bridge and there is documentation and proof of that. No one has yet to prove with documentation of "first hand narco insurgency" on that 50k road.
Rolly, yes I have met the speed trap along that route and currently sending his daughter through high school. Unfortunately, she is about to drop-out since the state has fixed the speed signs. But seriously, do you really think he is/was part of the mentioned "narco insurgency."
Altahabana totally changed the topic and mood of the original post, by announcing that drivers will get "first hand experience of narco insurgency" ... along that route. Where is this first hand experience? I drive that route every month and have not seen evidence that his statement is true. The narcos are probably there, (must be there,) but they are not bothering motorists along the 50k bypass. It may happen around the area, but not there, with no collateral damage, either. I respect Altahabana, but does the awful violence in Houston, TX keep me from visiting my friends in Austin? Sally


Altahabana


Nov 24, 2010, 12:14 PM

Post #18 of 39 (9764 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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My comment was an appropriate response to the Scientific Discovery part of the OP which sure sounded to me like an endorsement of Columbia bridge over the bridges in Nuevo Laredo. I was simply offering a different opinion. If anything changed the tone of this thread, it was your response chastizing me and other posters disagreeing with your comments.

To be blunt I could care less where you cross, your opinion about conditions on the route or whether I "deserve a pass". You are not going to convince me that road is not problematic and to start using it again simply because you haven't noticed anything when you drive it once a month. I offered the basis for my advice when you called me out the second time and now you have offered yours.

But again I don't have some emotional stake in where people cross and if they choose Columbia that's no real concern of mine. I would just hate for someone to pick that route simply because they don't like waiting in lines when there are other issues of concern about that side of Nuevo Laredo, whether you choose to acknowledge them or not.



Reefhound


Nov 24, 2010, 1:08 PM

Post #19 of 39 (9753 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Don't be absurd. The roads around Juarez are dangerous and there is plenty of documentation to prove it.

Let's see it. Show me where there has been a death or injury of American or foreign citizens on the Chihuahua highway from the bridge passing through Juarez.

That's an unreasonable standard to determine whether or not a stretch of highway is dangerous or not, and you know it.


chinagringo


Nov 24, 2010, 1:14 PM

Post #20 of 39 (9750 views)

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Re: [sally.bender] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Sally:

While you are certainly free to cross where you want, you will only have to answer to yourself or possibly a "higher power" should you entertain an incident on that or any other route. On the other hand, making public statements about the safety of any crossing could result in "blood on your hands" should someone choose to blindly follow your recommendations and realize injury or a tragic end. But that might be OK, since they probably will be "faceless" forum members who you have neither met or known.

My interpretation is that Altahabana is acting responsibly and he prefers not to have negative impacts on his conscience.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



Rolly


Nov 24, 2010, 1:30 PM

Post #21 of 39 (9732 views)

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Re: Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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The lady joined MXC two months ago and has made four posts.
I just went back and re-read them. Granted, it is a small sample,
but it seems to me that she is not likely to find a happy home here.

Rolly Pirate


chinagringo


Nov 24, 2010, 1:46 PM

Post #22 of 39 (9724 views)

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Re: [Reefhound] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Since the Chihuahua Highway is our route of choice and convenience, I watch the news out of that area very closely. Not a complete list by any means but: 1) US citizen/Texas National Guard member killed in Juarez, 2) 6 US citizens killed in one two day period on the highway in Juarez & 3) US citizen/UTEP college student killed north of Villa Ahumada returning to El Paso. They were not killed in highway accidents but were on the receiving end of weapons! Those are just the ones that I can think of that happened fairly recently and are fresh in my mind.
Regards,
Neil
Albuquerque, NM



sally.bender

Nov 24, 2010, 4:35 PM

Post #23 of 39 (9693 views)

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Re: [Rolly] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Ouch! Rolly, that hurt!


Reefhound


Nov 24, 2010, 5:36 PM

Post #24 of 39 (9666 views)

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Re: [chinagringo] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Neil, I am talking about travelers who were killed on the highway. Not Mexican American citizens visiting family and killed in colonias.

The National Guard guy lived there with relatives and was killed a few doors down from his house.

"The Texas National Guard today has confirmed that a man murdered in Ciudad Juarez this Wednesday, Jose Gil Hernandez, 22, of El Paso Texas, was an off-duty private first class assigned to the Headquarters Battery 3rd Battalion, 133 Field Artillery. Gil Hernandez and another man, Rafael Ramirez Reza, 43, were gunned down from a moving vehicle by an unknown group of armed men as they spoke outside of a home in the colonia Revolucion Mexicana in south Juarez." Source

The UTEP students also lived there with relatives and were killed near their houses.

The two university students who were gunned down in Juárez Tuesday were U.S. citizens who lived with their relatives in Juárez while they attended the University of Texas at El Paso. Manuel Acosta Villalobos, 25, and Eder Andres Diaz, 23, where attacked about 8 p.m. in colonia Rincones de Santa Rita, Chihuahua state police said. Their assailants fired 36 rounds, shooting the students multiple times, according to a Chihuahua state police report. Source

Those three were part of the six, I haven't found precise details of the other three.

Just found that one of the three was a woman killed while inside a tortilla shop. Source.




(This post was edited by Reefhound on Nov 24, 2010, 5:39 PM)


robrt8

Nov 24, 2010, 6:13 PM

Post #25 of 39 (9655 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Return drive from Mexico and a scientific discovery

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Altahabana, could you elaborate as to what you think is the true risk on that stretch? You mention that commercial carriers were concerned. That makes sense. But I'm not driving a rig. I'm also not Mexican and I won't be taking a border tour. Just passin' through.

You mention the US consulate. Are you aware of any specific events along that route that may have been reported there?

If your concern is the chance of getting "caught in the crossfire" let me say this has already been battle-tested by myself and thousands of gringos in BCN. It never happened, even at its worst. Needless to say, many thousands passed by, as I did twice, places where a balacera or scary event had taken place hours prior.
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