Three individuals with connections to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were gunned down in their cars on their way back from a child's birthday party at about 2:30 p.m. local time March 13. Two of the individuals were U.S. citizens: Lesley A. Enriquez, a consulate employee, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, a detention officer at the El Paso County Jail. According to a Mexican work permit, Enriquez worked as an assistant in the consulate's visa section. Family members said she recently returned to work from maternity leave. The third individual, Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, a spouse of a Mexican citizen employee at the consulate, was fatally shot and his two children were injured. Both Mexican and U.S. officials are saying that these killings were linked and specifically targeted. The shootings prompted the U.S. Department of State to issue a travel warning March 14 and authorize the departure of U.S. government personnel dependents from missions at six border consulates until April 12. Enriquez and Redelfs were shot and killed after being pursued for several blocks by gunmen believed to be linked to drug traffickers in Juarez. According to reports and pictures from the scene, it appears that Enriquez and Redelfs were traveling westbound on Fronterizo Street, which runs along the U.S.-Mexico border and underneath the Paso del Norte Bridge, in a white Toyota Rav 4 with Texas license plates. It appears that the fatal shots (which struck Enriquez in the head and Redelfs in the neck and arm) were fired as the couple was turning off of Fronterizo Street onto Lerdo Avenue in order to get on the bridge to return to the United States. A baby in the backseat belonging to Enriquez was unharmed during the incident. The gunmen likely considered this their last good opportunity to strike before the couple approached the border checkpoint, where military personnel and congested traffic would make for a more difficult getaway. (click here to enlarge image) Salcido was gunned down a only a few minutes before Enriquez and Redelfs but in a different part of the city. He was in his white Honda Pilot and had left the same birthday party Enriquez and Redelfs had attended. A different team of gunmen most likely shot Salcido. The fact that both vehicles were targeted nearly simultaneously makes mistaken identity an unlikely explanation for the attacks. No arrests have yet been made in connection with the killings. U.S. diplomatic missions in Mexico have received increased security threats in the past few weeks. On March 3, STRATFOR sources reported that a group of masked gunmen claiming to be local police sought to gain entry into the U.S. consulate in Monterrey (which was included in the authorized departure of dependents). While there was no violence and the group eventually left peacefully, it was yet another security incident at a consulate that had been targeted many times before. On March 2, a bomb threat was called into the U.S. consulate in Juarez, prompting the evacuation of employees. While the evacuation and search passed without incident, it did force employees to leave the fortified confines of the consulate, making them easier targets. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are coincidental. The increase in threats to U.S. missions comes after U.S. and Mexican government leaks that U.S. intelligence agents will be embedded with Mexican law enforcement units in Juarez to crack down further on drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) involved in violence in the city. Although the announcement later was denied, it appears the DTOs have not dismissed it. Since any increased U.S. effort would be based in U.S. diplomatic missions along the border, it appears the DTOs see these missions as threats and are sending them warnings.
Banners Appeal to President Calderon
Several banners containing messages to Mexican President Felipe Calderon were hung in Jalisco, Chihuahua and Durango states on March 8, with 27 hung in the Guadalajara metropolitan area alone. The messages appealed to Calderon to withdraw the army and navy and to let those who hung the banners rid the area of Los Zetas, the violent DTO that has largely taken over operations in eastern Mexico. Similar banners appeared at a university in Monterrey on March 3 appealing to Calderon to "let them do their work," signed by "cartels united against Los z" The appeals come as the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana cartels have allied to target Los Zetas assets, resulting in increased violence along the eastern Mexico-U.S. border. These organizations are appealing to Calderon for support in return for eliminating a major rival organization and government enemy. Allying with and sponsoring certain DTOs to eliminate another is a possible strategy that Calderon could use to bring Mexico's cartel war to a close. But such a policy could have long-ranging consequences. It will take far more than banners to negotiate such a deal, but the strategy itself is not impossible. (click here to view interactive map)
Naval special forces seized approximately 3.5 tons of marijuana from a vessel near San Lorenzo Island, Baja California state. Three people were arrested in connection with the incident.
Four bodies were found in a car in Xochimilco, Mexico state. The victims had been shot, and their hands and feet were bound. A message attributing the crime to Beltran Leyva Organization member Edgar Valdez Villareal was found nearby.
An improvised explosive device reportedly activated by cell phone was detonated near a gas station in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state. No injuries were reported.
Police arrested the suspected leader of a group of kidnappers in Santa Ana, Sonora state. The suspect, identified as Jorge Alberto Martinez Villagran, was arrested along with two other individuals.
Unknown attackers launched grenades at the municipal government headquarters of Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango state. No injuries were reported.
Two policemen were killed during a kidnapping attempt in Iztacalco, Mexico state. The policemen had been escorting the person targeted by the kidnappers.
Police in Naucalpan, Mexico state, discovered the lower half of an unknown man's body in a river near the neighborhood of San Antonio Zomeyucan.
Soldiers killed one suspected member of a drug trafficking cartel and injured two others during a firefight in China, Nuevo Leon state.
Soldiers in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, killed a man identified as Rogelio Sanchez Aldaba and arrested three others after a chase and firefight on a highway near the town. An army communique claimed that Sanchez Aldaba was a municipal government official.
The body of a man bearing signs of torture was discovered in the Benito Juarez neighborhood of Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state.
Police arrested the suspected leader of Los Zetas kidnapping gang, identified as Reynaldo Padilla Quintero or Naim Diaz Villasana. The suspect was arrested in an unidentified location of Quintana Roo state.
Police discovered a 76-meter long smuggling tunnel in Tijuana, Baja California state. The tunnel entrance was located near the Otay police precinct.
The body of a businessman identified as Victor Hugo Pacheco Amador was discovered in Garcia, Nuevo Leon state. Pacheco Amador had been kidnapped in San Nicolas de los Garza, according to two policemen arrested in connection with the incident.
A suspected Beltran Leyva Organization hit man was arrested by police in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. Police confiscated a pistol, a grenade and a small amount of marijuana from the suspect.
Police discovered 15 bodies at different locations throughout Acapulco, Guerrero state. Two of the victims had been decapitated.
Unknown gunmen shot and killed a man identified as reporter Evaristo Pacheco Solis near Aserradero Forestal, Guerrero state.
One soldier and 10 suspected drug trafficking cartel members were killed during a firefight in Ajuchitlan del Progreso, Guerrero state.
Two suspected members of Los Zetas were killed in a failed attempt to destroy the district attorney's office in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas state. A C-4 explosive charge the two men reportedly intended to place near the building detonated in their vehicle before they managed to install it.
Police arrested two men, identified as Felipe Cisneros Zepeda and Luis Alberto Barrera Sanabria, during a routine traffic stop in Sonoyta, Sonora state. The men had $27,000 hidden in a jacket.
The police chief of Pedro Escobedo, Queretaro state, was arrested on suspicion of firing weapons in public and disturbing the peace.
The decapitated body of a woman was discovered in Axapusco, Mexico state. The body had stab wounds on its neck, thighs, back and abdomen.