US Consulate Employee Slain in Drug-Ridden Mexican City

Washington – The Mexican government pledged Sunday to investigate the brutal killings of a U.S. consulate employee and two family members of consulate employees in violent, drug-plagued Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The Mexican government and officials in the border state of Chihuahua confirmed the drive-by shooting deaths Saturday of an American woman who worked at the U.S. consulate, along with her husband, also a U.S. citizen. The husband of another employee of the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez also was killed in a separate shooting Saturday.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon condemned the attacks and promised a full investigation by his government and to increase security in Juarez, a city of 1.5 million that’s become one of the world’s most violent and dangerous because of the drug trade.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose department oversees consular employees, said the U.S. would work with Mexico to find and punish those responsible.

“The safety and security of our personnel and their families in Mexico and at posts around the world is always our highest priority,” Clinton said, adding that the State Department would “do everything necessary to protect our people and to ensure that the perpetrators of these horrendous acts are brought to justice.”

Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said that President Barack Obama “shares in the outrage of the Mexican people at the murders of thousands in Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico,” and that the administration would continue to help Calderon’s government “break the power of the drug trafficking organizations that operate in Mexico and far too often target and kill the innocent.”

There were no initial reports as to why the three were killed, but statements from the Mexican government and the White House suggested drug traffickers in Juarez were to blame.

Traffickers are suspected because of recent threats made against consulate personnel, said an official familiar with the matter who refused to be named because of its sensitive nature.

Saturday’s killings weren’t the first time violence was directed at U.S. personnel in Mexico. In 1985, drug traffickers in Guadalajara kidnapped and killed U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who became a symbol of U.S. drug abuse prevention. The most recent violence, if carried out by traffickers, could signal a pushback against new efforts by the U.S. and Mexico to choke off the drug trade.

“The government of Mexico will continue to roll back transnational organized crime, and under the principle of shared responsibility underscores the need for both our countries to keep working as full partners to guarantee the safety and security of our peoples, particularly those living in our border communities,” said Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

The DEA has given Calderon high marks for his efforts to crack down on violent trafficking organizations, arresting many top leaders.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico late last month denied published reports that the DEA would begin embedding agents in Mexican anti-drug units in Ciudad Juarez, where scores of people are murdered every weekend as unabated drug violence has raged for years and is increasingly spilling across the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The violence isn’t limited to the border, however. On Saturday, 13 people were killed in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, including five police officers and two people who were beheaded. Drug traffickers are thought to be responsible for those killings, too.