Threats close U.S. consulate in border city

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The U.S. State Department said Friday that it is evaluating threats surrounding the consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez as hundreds of people with appointments for visa applications and other services stood outside the shuttered office wondering what to do.

U.S. officials gave no details on the threats that prompted an indefinite closure Thursday. The consulate is the only place that processes immigrant visas in Mexico.

"It is a very significant facility for us," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "There is some threat information that we received that we are evaluating. It is hard to know or judge whether the threat is related to the broad area where the consulate is or to the consulate itself."

Even as the State Department increases protection for employees and their families from the intensifying violence on the Mexican border, closing the Juarez consulate is the most drastic step to date — coming four months after drug gangs killed three people tied to the office.

About 300 people who arrived Friday morning — many from long distances — were surprised and irritated.

Maria Concepcion Morales traveled with two children 16 hours by bus from Zacatecas to be on time for her 7:45 a.m. appointment for a tourist visa.

"What am I going to do?" she said. "I don't have enough money to stay until Monday, when they're saying they will reopen."

The U.S. Embassy said it would reschedule appointments for visa applications through its call center, and provided a number that U.S. citizens could call for passport appointments and other services.

The governor of Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located, offered security help to reopen the consulate because of the volume of Mexicans who need services and who cross the border there.