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Mexican Troops Arrest Suspect in the Killing of US Consulate Worker


In Mexico, soldiers have arrested a suspect in the shooting deaths of a U.S. consulate worker and her husband in the border city of Juarez on March 13. But, authorities are being kept busy as the drug violence continues in Mexico.

Authorities in the Mexican state of Chihuahua say soldiers arrested the suspect on Friday and that he is a member of the Barrio Azteca gang - a cross-border criminal organization that has worked with the Gulf drug cartel. Although authorities did not identify the man, Mexican press reports say the suspect is 45-year-old Ricardo Valles de la Rosa.

Several gunmen took part in two separate attacks on March 13 that killed two U.S. citizens - one of whom worked at the U.S. consulate in Juarez, and a Mexican man whose wife worked at the consulate. There is no word from Mexican investigators on what role the arrested suspect might have played in the killings.

The Barrio Azteca gang was formed in U.S. prisons and later took hold in El Paso, Texas - just across the Rio Grande River boundary from Juarez, where Mexican members of the gang operate with the Gulf cartel, which is at war with the Sinaloa cartel over drug smuggling routes.

Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont blames the cartels for another massacre that took place on Sunday in the central state of Durango.

He says criminals murdered 10 people - ranging from 8- to 21-years of age - as they traveled in a pickup truck along a rural highway.

Gomez Mont says the Mexican government condemns the violence and will continue to employ the army around the country to fight the gangs who perpetrate such acts.

The victims of the Durango attack were on their way to collect federal financial aid for students when their vehicle was hit with bullets and grenades.

In the border town of Nuevo Laredo, just across the river from Laredo, Texas, soldiers battled with gunmen at a crowded public park on Sunday, killing three men. On the same day, in another area town, soldiers killed three men and two women in an armed clash at a motel.

The violence in Mexico has taken a toll on the country's tourism sector. Once commercially active border towns have far fewer visitors than they once had and many businesses have had to close. Even in beach resorts far from the border, tourist bookings have dropped because the U.S. and Canadian governments have issued warnings to their citizens about traveling in Mexico.

In years past, thousands of college students from the north would descend on Mexican border towns and beaches for spring break. But very few are going there this year.

Nearly 18,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began his war against the illegal drug cartels shortly after his inauguration in December 2006. Mexican officials have complained that the cartels gain much of their wealth from drugs smuggled across the border and sold in the United States, and that guns smuggled from the United States are used in many of the shootings in Mexico.

U.S. officials have accepted responsibility on both issues and have stepped up efforts to prevent gun smuggling into Mexico. And President Calderon admits that Mexico now has its own drug consumption problem.

But many analysts note that the proliferation of weapons in Mexico cannot be explained entirely by guns purchased legally in the United States and then taken illegally across the border. They note that fully automatic weapons and grenades, such as those used in Sunday's massacre in Durango, are not legally available in the United States, but are sold on the international black market or by Mexican military deserters.

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