News Around the Republic of Mexico
|Mexico Nabs Gang Leader in US Consulate Killings|
Morgan Lee - Associated Press
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July 02, 2010
Mexico City — A top drug gang enforcer says he ordered the killing of a U.S. consulate worker because she helped provide visas to a rival gang in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, federal police said Friday.
|Jesus Ernesto Chavez, known as "El Camello" stands as he is guarded by federal police officers during a presentation to the press, in Mexico City, Friday, July 2, 2010. (AP/Carlos Jasso)|
Jesus Ernesto Chavez, whose arrest was announced on Friday, leads a band of hit men for a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of anti-narcotics for the Federal Police.
Pequeno said Chavez ordered the March 13 attack that killed U.S. consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband as they drove through the violent city toward a border crossing to the U.S. Pequeno said Chavez told police that Enriquez was targeted because she helped provide visas to a rival gang.
The suggestion that drug gangs may have won influence within the U.S. diplomatic mission runs counter to previous statements by U.S. Embassy officials that Enriquez was never in a position to provide visas and worked in a section that provides basic services to U.S. citizens in Mexico.
Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and U.S. State Department in Washington declined to comment Friday.
The attack on Enriquez - within view of the Texas border - and a nearly simultaneous attack that killed the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate raised concerns that Americans and U.S. government personnel were being caught up in drug-related violence.
Enriquez was four months pregnant when she and husband Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed by gunmen who opened fire on their vehicle after the couple left a children's birthday party. Their 7-month-old daughter was found wailing in the back seat.
Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate, also was killed by gunmen after leaving the same event in a separate vehicle.
Chavez told police that gunmen opened fire on Salcido because the two cars were the same color and the hit men did not know which one Enriquez was in, Pequeno said.
Investigators also have looked at whether Redelfs may have been targeted because of his work at an El Paso prison that holds several members of the Barrio Azteca, believed to be responsible in the attacks.
In March, U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement officers swept through El Paso, picking up suspected members of the gang in an effort to find new leads in the killings.
A suspect detained in Mexico shortly after the shooting confessed to acting as a lookout as the Azteca gang supposedly hunted down Redelfs, but he was never charged and was released without explanation.
Officials also have speculated that both attacks could have been a case of mistaken identity.
Pequeno said Chavez belongs to Barrio Azteca, which works for the Juarez cartel on both sides of the border.
The Juarez cartel's turf war against the Sinaloa cartel has made Ciudad Juarez one of the deadliest cities in the world. More than 2,600 people were killed last year in the city of 1.3 million people across the border from El Paso, Texas.
Mexican police say Chavez also confessed to participating in the Jan. 31 killing of 15 youths at a party that was mistaken as a gathering of drug-gang rivals. That massacre fueled outrage over innocents killed since President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out offensive against drug gangs in 2006. More than 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug related violence since then.
Mexico's central intelligence database says the 41-year-old suspect served five years in a Louisiana prison on drug distribution charges. Chavez was detained in Mexico in 2008 by the Mexican army on drug trafficking allegations and released, only to be promoted within the Azteca gang, Federal Police said.
Chavez was arrested along with five suspected gang associates who are accused of carrying out killings or providing support. Six assault rifles, a sub-machinegun and ammunition were seized.