Suspect in US consulate killings in Ciudad Juarez appears in federal court in San Antonio

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Suspect in consulate deaths appears in Texas court

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A man who told Mexican authorities he ordered the March killing of a U.S. Consulate worker in Mexico has been extradited to the U.S. and appeared in a federal court in Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Mexican authorities said Jesus Ernesto Chavez, an enforcer with the Juarez drug cartel, said he ordered the shooting death of Lesley Enriquez because she was helping a rival gang get American visas. A U.S. federal official told The Associated Press in July that there was no evidence of corruption or wrongdoing by Enriquez.

Enriquez, whose work in the consulate’s American services section did not involve dealing with visas, was four months pregnant when she and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, were shot to death after leaving a children’s birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, a sprawling city just across the Rio Grande from El Paso that has become the center of Mexico’s increasingly bloody drug cartel war. The couple’s young daughter was unharmed in the shootout.

A third person, a man whose wife also worked at the consulate, was killed about the same time in a different part of the city. Mexican authorities said Chavez told them Jorge Alberto Salcido was shot because he left the same event in a car that looked similar to the one Enriquez and her husband were driving.

When Chavez was arrested this summer in Mexico he also confessed to plotting a January massacre at a birthday party that left 15 young people dead. The party was mistaken for a gathering of a rival gang, Chavez told authorities.

It was unclear what charges Chavez faces in the U.S. or when he was extradited.

Officials with both the FBI and the Justice Department did not return telephone messages left Saturday morning.

According to the San Antonio newspaper, which first reported the court appearance in Saturday’s edition, Chavez was handed over to U.S. authorities as part of an agreement by both countries to cooperate on drug cases.

He appeared in a closed hearing and the complaint was sealed, the newspaper said.

Mexico has been enveloped in a bloody war between drug cartels since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the violent gangs. More than 28,000 people have been killed nationwide.

In Juarez, where the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels have been fighting for control of lucrative human and drug trade routes since 2008, more than 6,000 people have died, making the hardscrabble border city one of the world’s deadliest.

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