March 30, 2010
The arrest of Richardo Valles de la Rosa was made public late Monday morning. A military spokesman announced his arrest saying that he was a member of the deadly Azteca gang and a suspect in the murders of three people linked to the US consulate in Juarez.
That information caused a media flurry and by Monday afternoon a good number of news sources were carrying the report. Mexican interior secretary, Fernando Gomez Mont, –President Calderon’s right hand man– made a statement in support of the news. But later the same day, Chihuahua governor Jose Reyes Baeza contradicted that statement saying there was still no concrete evidence linking Valles de la Rosa with the consulate deaths.
This all made for a good deal of confusion. To complicate matters further, late Tuesday evening another news update emerged, this one shifting the focus of the story significantly. A Mexican newspaper first broke the news on their website. Soon after, the Associated Press cited a joint statement issued by the Mexican government, saying that Valles de la Rosa had made a formal declaration stating that the attack on March 13 was targeted at Arthur Redelfs. Redelfs was a detention officer for the El Paso sheriff’s department. His wife, Lesley Enriquez, worked for the US consulate in Juarez. The two were murdered while driving back from a birthday party in Juarez. Enriquez was pregnant and the couple’s infant daughter, who was in the back seat of the car, survived the attack unharmed.
The third person murdered under similar circumstances, but in a different part of town was Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros. His wife also works for the American consulate and she was driving behind her husband on their way back from the same party as Arthur and Lesley. Salcido Ceniceros was shot to death in his car. His children, who were in the backseat were injured in the attack and taken to the hospital. I think the children have since been released, but am not sure of their condition. In the declaration made by Valles de la Rosa, Salcido Ceniceros’ death was a case of mistaken identity. He drove a similar vehicle as the Lesley and her husband and because the gunmen where uncertain of which car contained their target, they hit both.
Valles de la Rosa is said to be a sergeant of the violent Azteca gang, which is allied with the Juarez drug cartel. He served 12 years in a federal prison in Texas and has an outstanding warrant for drug charges in El Paso county. His wife said they rented homes in El Paso. If there is truth to Valles de la Rosa’s statement, it would obviously confirm that the March13 killings are gang-related. The Azteca gang is the Juarez branch of the Barrio Azteca gang in El Paso. The Barrio Aztecas are originally a prison gang made up of El Paso inmates. I understand there are Barrio Azteca, and perhaps Azteca members being held in the El Paso county jail where Redelfs worked.
I was in Juarez today at a court hearing with Valles de la Rosa. The hearing was to formally charge Valles de la Rosa with a murder back in October. During the hearing, his attorney said his client had been tortured, citing a medical examiner’s report. He also charged that the prosecuting team, in this case a pair of investigative state police officers, only had his clients confession and a weapon he was carrying as evidence of his participation in the crime. In Mexico, criminal suspects are commonly tortured into confession, especially in high-profile cases.
Both the Mexican and American governments are under a lot of pressure to solve and make sense of the murders that occurred on March 13. Mexico is in the middle of a vicious fight against the country’s powerful drug cartels, has a weak investigative police force, and is undergoing a full blown overhaul to their judicial system. They need all the outside help they can get. We’ll see what all that means with regards to this binational investigation.
Sadly, there are thousands of tragic stories like that Arthur Redelfs and his wife Lesley Enriquez. The vast majority, however, will never get the same attention or international push towards justice.