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Texas warns of travel to Mexican border town for the Fourth

By the CNN Wire Staff
Texas officials have warned resident not to cross into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, during the Fourth of July weekend.
Texas officials have warned resident not to cross into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, during the Fourth of July weekend.
  • NEW: Mexico officials say they are not on heightened alert
  • Tourism to Nuevo Laredo has been on the decline because of violence
  • The Zetas drug cartel is planning to target U.S. citizens, officials say
  • Nuevo Laredo, Mexico is across the border from Laredo, Texas

(CNN) -- Texas authorities are urging residents not to cross into the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo during the Fourth of July weekend because of intelligence that a Mexican drug cartel plans to target U.S. citizens.

The violent Zetas drug cartel, which operates in Nuevo Laredo, will be targeting crimes at Americans who cross the border into the city this weekend, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Webb County Sheriff's Office said Saturday.

"According to the information we have received, the Zetas are planning a possible surge in criminal activity, such as robberies, extortions, car-jackings and vehicle theft, specifically against U.S. citizens," DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement. "We urge U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Nuevo Laredo this weekend if it can be avoided."

Nuevo Laredo is across the border from Laredo, Texas, a city which bills itself as the "Gateway to Mexico." Four international bridges link Texas and Mexico at Laredo. An average of 11,000 trucks cross the border daily on those bridges.

Besides, commerce, the bridges between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo also connect families who have relatives on both sides of the border.

Nuevo Laredo, like most Mexican border cities, offers rows of bars, inexpensive dentists, restaurants and cultural events to draw tourists. But tourism has sharply declined in the past six years as drug cartel violence has spiraled in Mexico. Because of the various bridges into the United States and access to a major highway, Nuevo Laredo has been a turf contested by rival drug cartels.

The Zetas are known for having expanded their activities in the area from drug trafficking to exortion, kidnapping and human smuggling.

While the officials put out a warning for travel to Nuevo Laredo, they said there is no indication that this cartel criminal spree will crossover into the United States.

Officials in Nuevo Laredo said they were not familiar with the Texas warning.

"We are on alert as usual, because that is how we must be in Nuevo Laredo, but there is no special alert here with regards to what the U.S. authorities in Texas are saying," said Michelle Jones-Salazar, spokeswoman for the state's public prosecutor's office in Nuevo Laredo. "This week, there has not been a single gun battle that we have had to respond to or a single dead body. The city continues as usual and we remain vigilant."

CNN's Mariano Castillo and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.