Thursday, March 10, 2011
Mexican gang members charged in death of American couple
by: Damien Cave, New York Times
Ten members of a Mexican drug gang working on both sides of the border have been charged in the murders last year of a pregnant American Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate employee in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Court documents unsealed Wednesday in El Paso revealed federal charges against a total of 35 people the authorities said were linked to the Barrio Azteca gang.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. described the gang as a transnational criminal organization with a “militaristic command structure” and revenues linked to extortion and drug sales in the United States.
At a news conference in Washington, he said the charges, stemming from arrests in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, “reaffirm the fact that this Justice Department, and this administration, will not tolerate acts of violence against those who serve and protect American citizens.”
Noting that 7 of the 10 murder defendants are in Mexican custody, he added that “at every level of government and law enforcement, we are working with our Mexican counterparts more effectively than ever before.”
That cooperation is currently being tested in another high-profile investigation: American and Mexican authorities are pursuing the killers of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime J. Zapata, and the wounding of a second agent last month in a shooting outside Mexico City.But the emphasis on tight links in law enforcement also appears against a backdrop of tensions between the two countries. The recent shooting has led some members of Congress to question Mexico’s standard policy of refusing to allow American agents to be armed, while Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, has responded bitterly to leaked diplomatic cables in which American officials criticized the competence of Mexican authorities in the fight against cartels.
Even as Mr. Calderón went to Washington this month to meet with President Obama, he lashed out at the American ambassador, Carlos Pascual, and at what he described as an “incoherent” policy regarding drugs and guns in the United States.
The official American response, as evidenced by the comments of the attorney general, appears to be to press on, staying positive to keep the relationship intact, especially on the cases that matter most.
The murders in Ciudad Juárez had been a focus of multistate and cross-border efforts for more than a year.
When Lesley Ann Enriquez, a consulate employee, and her husband were shot and killed in March 2010 after a social event with other consulate employees, some people worried that Americans might regularly be singled out, and brutally — the gunmen left the couple’s baby crying in the back seat of their S.U.V.
The attack on the immigration agents reignited those fears.