Morgan Lee, AP, July 3, 2010
The drug-cartel enforcer told an unsettling story: A woman who worked in the Mexican border’s biggest U.S. consulate had helped a rival gang obtain American visas. And for that, the enforcer said, he ordered her killed.
Nonsense, says a U.S. official, who said Friday the motive for the slaying remains unknown.
The employee, Lesley Enriquez, and two other people connected to the U.S. consulate in the city of Ciudad Juarez were killed March 13 in attacks that raised concerns that Americans were being caught up in drug-related border violence.
Jesus Ernesto Chavez, whose arrest was announced Friday, confessed to ordering the killings, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of anti-narcotics for the Federal Police. Pequeno said Chavez leads a band of hit men for a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel.
Enriquez and her husband were killed in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, as they drove toward a border crossing. Chavez also is accused in a nearly simultaneous attack that killed the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate.
Pequeno said Chavez told police that Enriquez was targeted because she helped provide visas to a rival gang.
A U.S. federal official familiar with the investigation said Friday that after the killings, U.S. officials investigated possible corruption involving Enriquez and found none. The official was not authorized to speak about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the motive behind the killing remains unclear.
U.S. Embassy officials previously said that Enriquez was never in a position to provide visas and worked in a section that provides basic services to U.S. citizens in Mexico.
More than 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out offensive against drug gangs in 2006.
The State Department, meanwhile, announced new travel restrictions Friday for U.S. government employees working away from the border in Mexico and Central America. As of July 15, they and their families are barred from crossing anywhere along Texas’ border, north or south, because of safety concerns. The U.S. government continues to urge Americans to exercise extreme caution or defer unnecessary travel to certain parts of Mexico.