- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2010


CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Mexican soldiers have arrested a gang member suspected in the killings of three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state police said Monday.

The announcement came a day after gunmen in another northern state killed 10 young people riding in pickup truck when they didn’t stop at a gang’s illegal roadblock, authorities said.

Police spokesman Enrique Torres said the consulate shooting suspect arrested Friday was a member of the Barrio Azteca gang, which authorities say works for the Juarez drug cartel on both sides of the border.

Torres did not release the man’s name. But a Chihuahua state investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case identified the suspect as Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, 45.

Consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed March 13 in Juarez when gunmen opened fire on their sport utility vehicle after they left a birthday party. Their 7-month-old daughter was found wailing in the back of the vehicle.

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.

Torres said the suspect is a leader of the Barrio Azteca gang, but gave no other details. He said the suspect could be presented to the media Tuesday.

U.S. and Mexican authorities say the Barrio Azteca gang works for the Juarez drug cartel and operates on both sides of the border.

Initially a Texas prison gang, Barrio Azteca expanded across the Rio Grande into Juarez in the late 1990s, U.S. authorities have said. Last week, El Paso police and Texas state troopers arrested 25 people in a sweep of suspected gang members.

Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, is one of the world’s deadliest places. More than 2,600 people were killed last year, and another 500 so far this year in the city of 1.3 million.

Elsewhere in Mexico, at least 21 people were killed Sunday in drug violence.

In the northern state of Durango, gunmen killed the 10 youths traveling in a pickup because they refused to stop at the roadblock set up by a criminal gang, state investigators said in a statement.

The youths, ages 8 to 21, were heading to the town of Los Naranjos to collect federal financial aid given to students when they were shot at and attacked with grenades. Four of the victims were siblings from one family.

“There were false roadblocks set up by criminal gangs, intended to protect a piece of territory,” said federal Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont, adding that such roadblocks have been detected in the past.

Gomez-Mont said the Sinaloa drug cartel is in a turf battle in the region with the Zetas, hit men who broke away from the Gulf cartel to form their own drug trafficking organization.

“If you think that the Mexican government is going to retreat in the face of events like those of the weekend, in which criminals attack helpless children and youths, you’re wrong,” Gomez-Mont said.

Also Sunday, three gunmen died in a clash with soldiers near a park crowded with families in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, authorities said in a statement.

Tamaulipas state investigators said police on Sunday also found the bodies of three men who had been shot to death in the town of Miguel Aleman, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Nuevo Laredo.

Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state have seen a surge of violence in recent weeks that authorities blame on the fight between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas.

In the Nuevo Leon city of Santa Catarina, three men and two women were killed in a shootout with soldiers inside a motel, the army said in a statement.

It said one of those killed was a gunmen who participated in the Nov. 5 killing of an army general who had been appointed police chief of the town of Garcia and in last week’s attack on Rene Castillo, an army major and Santa Catarina’s security chief.

The clash happened just as thousands of people wearing white gathered in Monterrey, near Santa Catarina, for a peace rally.

Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed 17,900 lives since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug gangs when he took office in December 2006. Powerful drug cartels have been battling not only authorities but each other for turf and drug routes.

The groups have become increasingly bold, an attitude that was on display Monday in the border state of Sonora, when a 25 men walked into the state police office in the city of Magdalena de Kino, just south of the border, beat up two officers and held the rest at gunpoint. They warned the officers to leave the gang alone, before leaving in four vehicles.

Associated Press writers Isaac Garrido in Mexico City, Mark Walsh in Monterrey and Jorge Vargas in Nuevo Laredo contributed to this report.



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