Mexican authorities said Friday they have arrested the leader of a Ciudad Juarez street gang who they say ordered the killing of a U.S. consular worker in the border town in March.
Federal police said Jesus Ernesto Chavez told them that consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez, 35, was targeted because she was providing visas to rivals.
Police said Chavez, 41, also confessed to having taken part in a January shooting attack on a party that killed 15 people, mostly teenagers, and raised an outcry in Mexico over the runaway violence that has made Ciudad Juarez the deadliest city in the nation.
Chavez, whose nickname is the "Camel," is a leader of the Aztecas, said Ramon Pequeno, who runs the anti-drug division of the federal police and announced the arrest. The Aztecas are allied with the Juarez cartel and have members on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Chavez said the cartel's armed wing, known as La Linea, ordered Enriquez's killing because she "was providing visas to members of the opposing group," Pequeno told reporters. He did not elaborate.
U.S. officials in Mexico City said that Enriquez worked in the U.S. citizens services section of the consulate, which does not deal with visas.
Enriquez, who was pregnant, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, 34, both U.S. citizens, were shot dead March 13 as they drove from a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez. The couple's infant daughter was found crying but uninjured in the back seat.
The husband of a Mexican employee at the consulate was also fatally shot leaving the same party in a separate vehicle. The suspect said hit men also targeted the second car, which was the same color as that of Enriquez, because they weren't sure which one she was in, Pequeno said.
The Juarez slayings sparked worries that U.S. citizens or government employees had become targets of the violent drug trafficking gangs that have waged war with Mexican authorities and each other in recent years.
The State Department at the time announced that diplomatic employees along the border in northern Mexico could move family members and dependents to the U.S. side.
The attack on the youth party in January was carried out by Aztecas who mistakenly believed members of a rival street gang were gathering, authorities said.
President Felipe Calderon came under intense criticism after he initially blamed the massacre on gang rivalries. He backtracked after it turned out that the slain youths were promising students and athletes.
Chavez was previously imprisoned for five years in Louisiana on drug-dealing charges. In 2008, he was arrested by Mexican soldiers on drug charges, but freed, Pequeno said.