Monday, March 15, 2010

U.S. Consulate Workers Killed In Mexico Drug War.

First there was Bobby Salcedo form El Monte, California on New Year's Eve 2010. Being a School Board Member he was the first American elected official to be murdered in Mexico. On 13 March the Mexican Drug murders of Americans took an ominous turn.

The drug wars in Mexico took an ominous turn when a U.S. consulate employee and her husband were killed as they left a children's birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent city. Only minutes earlier gunmen also killed the Mexican husband of another member of the consular staff and wounded his two children.

While a number of US citizens have been killed in Mexico's increasingly bloody drug wars between rival cartels, it is the first time an American government employee has been killed.

President Barack Obama has expressed outrage over the killings, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised a swift investigation.

The three died during one of the bloodiest weekends so far in Mexico, with nearly 50 people murdered in gang violence. Another 13 people were killed in a gangland shoot-out in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco on Sunday.

The US consulate employee and her husband, identified as Lesley Enriquez, 35, and Athur Redelfs, 39, were shot to death on Saturday 13 March 2010 in their car near the Santa Fe International bridge linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas.

According to the newspaper Diario de Juarez, gunmen chased the couple's white van shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, shooting at the vehicle until it swerved out of control, crashing into oncoming traffic near the bridge.

Ms Enriquez, who was four months pregnant with the couple's second child, was shot in the head, while her husband was shot in his neck and arm. When police officers arrived at the victims' bullet-riddled Toyota van, they discovered the couple's baby daughter crying disconsolately in the back seat, Diario de Juarez reported. At first the officers thought the seven-month-old girl had been wounded, but she was unharmed.

"This is shocking to everyone," Reuben Redelfs, the brother of the victim, told the Washington Post. "People need to know what's going on down here. It's become a war zone ..... It's just horrible what's happening."

At approximately the same time, the third victim, Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, was killed as he travelled in another part of Juarez. The gunmen boxed in the man's car, shot him and wounded his two children, aged four and seven, according to media reports.

The attacks occurred as the US State Department was taking the unusual step of authorizing U.S. government employees at Ciudad Juarez and five other American consulates in northern Mexico to send their families out of the region because of concerns over the increasing bloodshed. That announcement was in the works before the murders, officials said.

President Obama was "deeply saddened and outraged" by the killings, the White House said.

"He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign missions," a White House statement said. "In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."

Mr Calderon's office said the Mexican president "expresses his indignation" and "his sincerest condolences to the families of the victims." He "reiterated the Mexican government's unwavering compromise to resolve these grave crimes."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton extended her sympathy to the families of the victims and said Washington would continue to work with the Mexican government to bring drug traffickers to justice.

"These appalling assaults on members of our own State Department family are, sadly, part of a growing tragedy besetting many communities in Mexico," said Mrs Clinton. Washington was committed to: "work closely with the government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico," she said.

Ciudad Juarez a city of 1.3 million people just across the US border from El Paso, is at the epicentre of the drug wars that have devastated Mexico over recent years. In the last three years alone, 15,000 people have been murdered, many of them in turf wars between rival drug gans.

At least 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon deployed the army to battle increasingly powerful traffickers.

Alarmed by the brazen shootings, the State Department announced Sunday that employees at a string of U.S. consular offices along the Mexican border — Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Ju├írez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros — could evacuate their families to the United States.

The consular agency in Reynosa was temporarily closed in recent weeks after violence in that city grew.

Strengthening its travel warning for Mexico, the State Department said, "While most crime victims are Mexican citizens, the uncertain security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well."

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