Many Theories, But No Motive Yet in Juarez Deaths

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Law enforcement officials still haven’t released a motive as to why three people with links to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez were killed two weeks ago.  

On March 13, consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were shot and killed after they left a birthday party in Juarez. Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate, was killed by gunmen after leaving the same event.

The FBI rounded up hundreds of Barrio Azteca gang members in El Paso last week to gather more information about motives for the killings. Law enforcement officials say Barrio Azteca is aligned with the Juarez Cartel and they surmise that gang members shot the three victims.

The three deaths only highlight the escalating violence engulfing our neighboring states in Mexico since the violent split between the Gulf and Zeta cartels in February. This year there has been 2,323 deaths so far, according to a tally by the Mexico-city based El Universal newspaper.

I don’t know how I could have missed this San Antonio Express-News story that came out last year but it gives you an idea as to how openly the U.S. Consulates in Mexico are working with the DEA and Mexican law enforcement on anti-cartel operations. The story reports that U.S. Consulate officials rented a house in Nuevo Laredo where the DEA and Mexican law enforcement ran a drug cartel sting operation.

Narcos discovered the DEA operation, torched the house and kidnapped the unfortunate landlord, a U.S. citizen, who thought he had rented his home to U.S. consulate employees.  The article makes you wonder – if the U.S. Consulate is being so open about its working relationship with U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operations in Mexico then it puts every consulate worker in Mexico in great jeopardy.

My understanding is that security for U.S. Consulate employees is handled by a Regional Security Officer who designs and oversees a security plan for all U.S. embassy employees.

I called the U.S. embassy in Mexico City to ask whether the RSO had been fired or reprimanded because of the deaths in Juarez. The press attaché didn’t call me back after I left several messages. I finally reached Andy Laine, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C.

When I asked whether the RSO had been fired or reprimanded because of the three deaths in Juarez, Laine said he was “certain that no one was fired or reprimanded over this.”

I then asked whether any new safety precautions had been taken at U.S. consular offices since the three were killed. He responded that “In an incident as tragic as this, the consulate is certainly going to take a look at security and make appropriate changes,” he told me. “I can’t talk in detail about what those changes are because I don’t want to tip off the bad guys.”

I called the FBI in El Paso who are working on the investigation of the three deaths. Andrea Simmons, a FBI spokesperson in El Paso said “there was no indication that they were targets because of their association with the U.S. consulate.”

Simmons said the FBI had no new updates on possible motives for the murders. “The investigation could take weeks or even months,” she said. “The shootings happened in Mexico and so the lead investigators on this are the Mexican authorities.”

Mexican media is echoing Simmons’ supposition that the three were not killed because of their connection to the U.S. Consulate. It was Arthur Redelfs, a corrections officer in El Paso, who was the target instead, according to a March 18 article in El Informador. The reporter quotes Mexican law enforcement as saying Redelfs may have been the target because he worked with drug seizures from Juarez. U.S. media reports all say that Officer Redelfs was a detention officer in El Paso, so there is a disconnect there between U.S. and Mexican reports.

The story also reports that the assassins had been tailing Redelf’s white Toyota RAV4 after leaving the birthday party but lost sight of his vehicle. They then saw Salcido’s white Honda Pilot and began following it. In the end both white SUVs were targeted by the Azteca killers.

As with many drug war related killings in Mexico, we may never know the full story. All we know is that three more families are in mourning because of a brutal drug war. One thing is for certain, employees in U.S. consulates in Mexico will need to take unprecedented precautions to keep themselves and their families safe.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.