Mexico: descent into chaosDHS: Mexican assassin teams targeting U.S. law enforcement

Published 7 April 2010

Mexico is deteriorating into anarchy, and there is a spill-over effect: DHS issued an alert to law enforcement units in western Texas, warning that Mexican drug cartels — specifically, the Barrio Azteca gang — are now targeting U.S. law enforcement personnel for assassination in retaliation for a recent crackdown on members of the gang; Mexican criminal gangs already routinely kill policemen, judges, and politicians (and their families, too) — often in the most gruesome manner in order to send a message to others — and they have now taken on the Mexican military as well

The steady deterioration of security conditions in Mexico has brought the country to the verge of resembling Columbia in the 1990s: Drug traffickers and criminal organizations in Mexico now have many more men under arms than the combined uniformed forces — police, the military, etc. — of the Mexican government, and the brazenness of these criminal militias has grown apace: not only do they routinely kill policemen, judges, and politicians (and their families, too) — often in the most gruesome manner in order to send a message to others — they have now taken on the Mexican military as well.

This anarchic violence is now spilling into the United States.’s Joshua Rhett Miller reports that law enforcement officers in west Texas are on guard following an alert issued by DHS warning of retaliatory killings for a recent crackdown on the Barrio Azteca gang.

David Cuthbertson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s El Paso division, said the paramilitary-style gang has an “open policy” to kill its rivals and may turn its sights toward local law enforcement officers. “[They] are extremely cold-blooded and aggressive,” Cuthbertson told “The killings are done really without thought and any kind of remorse.”

Citing uncorroborated information, DHS issued an Officer Safety Alert on 22 March, advising lawmen in the El Paso sector to vary their routes to and from work and to wear body armor while on duty. The alert also suggested that officers’ relatives pay closer attention to unusual activity in the area.

The Barrio Azteca gang may issue a ‘green light’ authorizing the attempted murder of [law enforcement officers] in the El Paso area,” the alert read. “Due to the threat, it is recommended that [law enforcement officers] take extra safety precautions.”

The Barrio Azteca gang, which formed in Texas prisons in the 1980s, is a brother organization to the Aztecas gang in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the epicenter of Mexico’s violent drug war, Cuthbertson said. He said members of the gang’s “assassination teams” are thought to work for very small monthly fees. One official from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has said Aztecas have been known to kill for as little as $100. Since 2006 drug violence across Mexico has claimed nearly 18,000 lives.

Eduardo “Tablas” Ravelo, the reputed boss of Barrio Azteca members living in Juarez, remains on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest. He and other Barrio Azteca gang members serve as hitmen for the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization — also known as the Juarez cartel — and are responsible for several killings, according to the FBI.

Miller reports that the DHS warning came just days after hundreds of Barrio Azteca gang members were interviewed by officials from DEA and FBI following the murders of three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez on 13 March. More than 200 officers from at least 18 agencies participated in Operation Knockdown, which resulted in at least twenty-six felony arrests of alleged Azteca members.

The Barrio Aztecas are believed to be aligned with the Juarez cartel against the Sinaloa drug cartel for control of the billion-dollar drug-trafficking routes through the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez corridor. Since 2008 the Aztecas have been rivals of the Artistic Assassins, or Double A’s, who serve as contract killers for the Sinaloa cartel, Cuthbertson said. “They’re very organized,” he said. “They have a code they go by and certainly a communication network inside and outside of the prison system.”

Cuthbertson said Barrio Azteca gang members have been found in central Texas towns like Odessa and Midland, as well as in southern Mexico.

Miller reports that Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, an Azteca sergeant, said last week in a purported confession that his gang was hunting for the vehicle of a Texas jail guard who was killed in one of two SUVs attacked in the 13 March shootings that killed El Paso jail officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Enriquez, who worked as an employee of the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, and Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of another consulate worker.

Valles de la Rosa, according to his statement, was instructed by Azteca brass to target Redelfs due to alleged harsh treatment of Azteca members in jail. Valles de la Rosa was ordered last week to be held for trial on weapons charges for allegedly carrying a 9mm pistol when he was arrested.