Barrio Azteca Gunmen Charged With US Consulate Cd. Juarez Murders Found Guilty on All Counts

In February 2014, we blogged about the US Consulate Ciudad Juárez Murder Trial in El Paso. The victims of that 2010 tragic incident were El Paso County sheriff’s detention officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Ann Enriquez Redelfs, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of Hilda Salcido who also worked at the consulate.
On February 4, 2022, USDOJ announced that the Barrio Azteca Gunmen who committed the US Consulate Murders in Ciudad Juarez were found guilty on all counts. Excerpt below:

A federal jury in Texas yesterday convicted two members of the violent street and prison gang, Barrio Azteca, on all counts related to the murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband, and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee.

Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, aka Zorro, 43, of Chihuahua, Mexico, and Martin Artin Perez Marrufo, aka Popeye, 54, of Chihuahua, Mexico, were found guilty at the conclusion of a 13-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division. The jury found Diaz and Marrufo guilty of conspiracy counts for racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, money laundering, and murder in a foreign country; three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and three counts of murder resulting from use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking.

Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that on March 13, 2010, Diaz and Marrufo served as gunmen on the hit teams that murdered U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee. The victims were targeted by the hit teams after departing from a child’s birthday party in Juarez because they were mistaken initially for rival gang members. Diaz shot and killed Enriquez and Redelfs. Marrufo shot and killed Ceniceros.

“The murders of Leslie Enriquez, Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros are a tragedy,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These convictions demonstrate the Department’s commitment to combating violent transnational criminal organizations. I want to thank the Mexican Government for its cooperation including extraditing both defendants to the United States to face criminal charges.”

“Although 12 years have passed since these senseless murders, our office has only strengthened its resolve to seek justice for victims of cartel violence,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “These guilty verdicts demonstrate the diligent pursuit of our prosecutors and our commitment to protecting communities from ruthless brutality.”

“These convictions represent the FBI’s commitment to take aggressive action against anyone who takes the lives of innocent American citizens,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Even the most ruthless criminals, whether here or afar, cannot evade justice, and we will continue to hold those accountable who commit brutal acts of violence.”

“Today’s convictions serve as a stark warning to all drug traffickers that we will pursue and prosecute any and all who compromise the safety and health of Americans and those who support our U.S missions abroad,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The hardworking women and men of DEA will continue to work with our domestic and global partners to rid our communities of the intimidation, violence, and drug abuse these criminal drug networks inflict.”

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Barrio Azteca is a transnational criminal organization engaged in money-laundering, racketeering, and drug-related activities in El Paso, Texas. The gang allied with other drug gangs to battle the Sinaloa Cartel, at the time headed by Chapo Guzman, and its allies for control of the drug trafficking routes through Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The drug routes through Juarez, known as the Juarez Plaza, are important to drug trafficking organizations because it is a principal illicit drug trafficking route into the United States.

A total of 35 defendants were charged in the third superseding indictment and are alleged to have committed various criminal acts, including the 2010 Juarez Consulate murders in Juarez, Mexico, as well as racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, murder, and obstruction of justice. Of the 35 defendants charged, all have been apprehended and 28 have pleaded guilty. One was convicted by trial, one committed suicide before the conclusion of his trial and three are awaiting extradition from Mexico.

Diaz was extradited from Mexico on Nov. 13, 2019 and Maruffo was extradited from Mexico on Jan. 18, 2020. The extraditions were the result of close coordination between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, who also cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of this case.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 9. Diaz and Maruffo face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

A lot of people who worked on this case deserves our gratitude:

Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Christina Taylor of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Spitzer of the Western District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations provided significant assistance in this case.

The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force located at the Texas Anti-Gang Center in El Paso, FBI Albuquerque Field Office, DEA Juarez and DEA El Paso investigated the case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, N.M., Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, N.M., Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico provided valuable assistance. 

 

Snapshot: Geographic Distribution of @StateDept Family Member Employment (Fall 2021)

Via State/FLO (FAMER)

 

Related posts:

Snapshot: Family Members Employed at US Missions Overseas by Bureau 2018-2021

 

Via State/FLO-FAMER

Related posts:

Snapshot: Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (Fall 2021)

 

Via State/FLO:

Related posts:

Modernizing @StateDept Workforce and Winning Talent – See What’s Glaringly Missing?

 

On January 25, DipNote posted a new piece by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon on Modernizing Our Workforce and Winning the Competition for Talent. He talked about recruiting the next generation, focusing on retention and building critical skills for the State Department. Excerpt below:

Recruiting the Next Generation

      • Our Recruitment Division conducted more than 3,000 recruiting activities, including over 900 events specifically targeting DEIA prospects. These DEIA-focused recruiting events engaged over 15,000 individual prospects.
      • We established a 500-person Volunteer Recruiter Corps with representation from all affinity groups, which participated in more than 150 events. These groups mirror the makeup of our workforce and help strengthen and support its diversity.
      • We streamlined the security clearance review process, reducing the average time it takes to finalize a clearance for new and transferring employees.
      • Looking ahead, we will continue to urge Congress to authorize and fund paid internships.

A Focus on Retention

      • We are focusing on creating and sustaining workplace flexibilities, to support our people and their families, modernize our performance management system, and promote professional development and career mobility for all our employees. In the last year, we have:
      • Expanded remote work and telework eligibility. The Department needs to keep pace with the private sector in enabling greater flexibility, and we are committed to enhancing and institutionalizing many of the changes we have implemented in response to the pandemic.
      • Expanded student loan repayment eligibility criteria.
      • Established the first Veterans Services Coordinator position, to better support our more than 5,000 veterans at the Department.
      • Created a Retention Team. In addition to reviewing the data and talking with the workforce to understand why people stay and why they leave, the Retention Team will develop the first Department-wide retention strategy.
      • These steps are important and are intended to support positive change across the Department. But we are not finished. In early 2022, in addition to announcing performance management reforms, we expect to roll out new professional development opportunities as well as long overdue initiatives aimed at helping our Civil Service employees build rewarding careers.

Building Critical Skills

      • As we reorient U.S. foreign policy to focus on 21st-century challenges that most directly affect Americans’ lives, we need to build our capacity and expertise in areas critical to our national security. To that end, we have:
      • Established a Talent Sourcing Unit to more effectively identify, reach, and target individuals for recruitment, especially in fields requiring specialized skills.
      • Conducted our first Department-only career fair, focused on STEM-and engaging diverse candidates.
      • Established new Foreign Service climate diplomacy positions in all geographic regions and key overseas missions and embassies.
      • Eliminated degree requirements for Foreign Service IT specialists and hired for several Civil Service data scientist positions.
It is shocking to see that this new modernization plan does not even mention family members anywhere.  Take a look at the following numbers:
Out of 11,840 total adult family members overseas, 75% (8,838) are female and 25% (3,002) are male.
Only 40% (4,761) adult family members are employed, while 60% (7,079) are not employed.  Of the 40% employed, only 24% or 2,900 worked for Uncle Sam inside our embassies and consulates while 16% (1,861) worked outside the US missions performing telework, running home businesses, or working in the education field.
According to BLS, the percentage of dual-income households in the United States was fairly stable between 1998 and 2017, ranging from 52 to 58 percent.
That’s not the case for FS households overseas. 
60% of FS adult family members overseas are unemployed. While unemployed, a good number are most likely not contributing to a retirement system. Sporadic and employment gaps while overseas could translate into a retirement wage gap; the same gap that helps push up the poverty rate for older women in this country.
We think that’s an important point to note since 75% of FS spouses overseas are female.
Something else to note when looking at these numbers.  In 2020, the average life expectancy of women at birth in the US was 80.5 years; 75.1 years for men.
So on average,  female FS spouses with chequered careers and with less retirement security than their regularly employed spouses are expected to live five years longer than their male spouses. According to WISER, the average annual Social Security benefit received by women age 65 and older is approximately $14,000, which is unlikely to cover all retirement expenses.
Would the female spouses in a modern State Department continue to give 20-30 years of their lives to life overseas as accompanying partners, only able to work now and then, and putting their financial future in their old age in great peril? How many employee-spouses would opt to leave mid-careers to give their accompanying spouses opportunities to pursue their own careers and build financial independence?
Also read: WISER: Retirement Planning for Stay-At-Home Moms

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US Embassy Kyiv Now on Evacuation Status: Voluntary For USG Staff, Mandatory For Family Members

 

On Saturday, January 22, CNN reported that US Embassy Kyiv requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff  and their families, citing “multiple sources familiar with the matter.” Note that “non-emergency” staff is the preferred term, actually.
CNN also reported in early December that the US was working on contingency planning to evacuate Americans from Ukraine, as Russia has continued to mass troops near the border and spark fears of a renewed invasion.
A side note here, this contingency planning is not unique to Ukraine, of course. See here:

Every Foreign Service post is required to have an operative Emergency Action Plan (EAP) with procedures in place to respond to emergencies such as natural disaster, civil unrest, a pandemic or mass casualties. The post EAP is a living document, updated on a continuous basis, and comprehensively reviewed once a year. Diplomatic missions are also required to run mock emergency training drills (usually, an intense two day session every two years) to test their capabilities and the relevance of their EAPs.

On Sunday, January 23, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Ukraine “due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19.”
The Travel Advisory also announced that the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.
Additionally, the advisory urged U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
The State Department has called the developments in Ukraine a crisis and has set up phone lines dedicated to Ukraine-related calls:”
For Ukraine related calls,  please dial 1-833-741-2777 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-606-260-4379 (overseas).
All other calls,  please dial 1-888-407-4747 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas).
On Monday, January 24, the US Embassy Kyiv issued a statement announcing the Authorized Departure of U.S. Government Employees and Ordered Departure for Eligible Family Members.
On January 24, the U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of U.S. government employees and ordered the departure of family members (“ordered departure”) of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, effective immediately.
Authorized departure gives these employees the option to depart if they wish; their departure is not required. Ordered departure for family members requires that family members leave the country. The U.S. Embassy’s departure status will be reviewed in no later than 30 days.
The Department of State made the decision to authorize departure from Mission Ukraine out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine. We have been in consultation with the Ukrainian government about this step and are coordinating with Allied and partner embassies in Kyiv as they determine their posture.
Additionally, the State Department has elevated our previous Travel Advisory for Ukraine to Level Four – Do Not Travel due to the increased threats of significant Russian military action against Ukraine. The Travel Advisory was already at Level Four – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19.
[…]
With respect to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, our primary role is to keep the U.S. citizen community informed of safety and security developments, which could include information on commercial travel options.
[…]
Our Embassy in Kyiv is prepared to meet an immediate uptick in demand for consular services. Over the last several months, the Embassy has prioritized the processing of U.S. passports and immigrant visas, including adoption cases. As always, we will prioritize support for U.S. citizens in emergency situations and are working to ensure our continued capacity to do so.
Read in full here.
No nominee has been announced for the US Ambassadorship in Kyiv as of this writing.  The most recent Senate confirmed ambassador was Marie Yovanovitch who was recalled in May 20, 2019 after a vicious smear campaign by Trump allies.
Embassy Kyiv is currently headed by Kristina Kvien as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.. She was previously appointed CDA from May-June 2019. CDA Kvien’s deputy is Alan Purcell who became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in May 2021. He previously served in Ukraine as Political Counselor.

 

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USCG Almaty on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency USG Staff/Family Members

 

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. It also announced that the Department approved the voluntary departure of Consulate General Almaty non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of all Consulate General Almaty U.S. government employees.
On Saturday, January 8, US Mission Kazakhstan issued a Security Alert for U.S. citizens in the country announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency USG staff and family members at the Consulate General in Almaty. The Alert also advised U.S. citizens in country to shelter in place if a safe departure is not possible:

The U.S. government has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.  

U.S. citizens in Almaty are advised to shelter in place until safe departure is possible.  Avoid standing next to balconies or windows and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.  Further, all U.S. citizens in Kazakhstan are advised to avoid crowds or demonstrations.

A nationwide state of emergency and curfew is in place between the hours of 11pm and 7am and will remain in effect until January 19.  Expect security checkpoints controlling access to population centers, public transport disruptions, and limitations on movement throughout the country.  Overland border crossing to neighboring countries may not be possible or safe at this time, and access to fuel may be limited.

Unrest in Almaty continues, and there were reports of gunfire overnight and ongoing direct conflict between armed groups and Kazakhstani government forces. Widespread flight and train disruptions continue, and there are cancellations on both domestic and international routes.  Almaty airport and railway stations are currently closed.  You are advised to check with your airline to confirm your flight and reminded to avoid travel during curfew hours.

Communications services countrywide have been limited and internet restrictions continue.  However, the government of Kazakhstan reports that access to limited news outlets has been restored.  Disruptions to internet access may continue to impact other services such as banking, credit card transactions, and COVID-19 testing.  Coordinate with your medical provider to determine testing availability.

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Snapshot: Former FS Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements

 

Via GTM/RNET: Former Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements
Former spouses have a default entitlement to a pro rata marital share of the annuity, survivor annuity and health benefits coverage if the following conditions have been met:
    • Former spouse must have been married to annuitant for at least 10 years of the employee’s creditable service (civilian or military), with 5 of these years occurring while the employee was in  the Foreign Service; and
    • Have been divorced from employee after February 15, 1981, and
    • Have not remarried prior to age 55 or expressly waived spousal benefits under the Foreign Service Act of 1980.
A qualified court order or a valid spousal agreement will take precedence over the above-noted provisions.
Qualified Court Order Or Valid Spousal Agreement
A court order or spousal agreement that alters or waives the statutory entitlement payable under the Foreign Service Act to a former spouse must do so expressly.  To expressly alter or waive a Former Spouse’s statutory entitlement to benefits, the court order spousal or agreement must specifically refer to Foreign Service retirement.  For example, the parties may specify that the relevant language in the court order or agreement pertains to pension, survivor or refunds under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System if the annuitant is a FSRDS participant, or under the Foreign Service Pension System if the annuitant is a FSPS participant.
For more information, please contact the Chief Policy Advisor at: HRSC@state.gov.

 

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US Embassy Sudan On Voluntary Evacuation as of 10/27, New Travel Advisory Out on 11/8 (?)

 

On October 25, the US Embassy in Sudan issued a Security Alert (see US Embassy Khartoum Issues Security Alert Following Coup in Sudan).We missed that post issued a Security Alert two days later announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency personnel and family members Security Alert: Authorized Departure of Non-Emergency U.S. Government Employees and Family Members from U.S. Embassy Khartoum (27 October, 2021).
On November 6, Embassy Khartoum issued another Security Message noting sporadic protests, and advising U.S. citizens to shelter in place.

Sporadic and decentralized protests continued on November 5 and 6. Large protests are reportedly planned for November 7 and possibly November 8. While organizers of the protests signal their intent to continue to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, there have been violent confrontations in the past. American citizens are advised to shelter in place to the extent possible.

Movement in and around Khartoum has improved and all bridges are reported open. Military checkpoints remain in place and protesters continue to form their own roadblocks in and around Khartoum. Telephone networks are functional at the time of posting. Most internet networks remain non-functional.

Should you elect to stay in Sudan and shelter in place, please consider not just security issues, but also the long-term sustainability of your living situation. Factors to consider may be the availability of food in the markets, fuel in gas stations, bank closures, pharmacy closures, the reliability of water and electricity sources, communications barriers, land border accessibility, port closures, and dependably available air travel.

Previous Security Alerts advised U.S. citizens to “Please develop departure plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.”
On November 8, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Sudan.  The Advisory announced the October 27 authorization for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees due to civil unrest and possible supply shortages.
Did post go on “authorized departure” on October 27 but State did not issue a new Travel Advisory announcing that development until November 8?

US Embassy Ethiopia Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency USG Staff and Family Members

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa went on “authorized departure” on November 3. Two days later, the embassy went on mandatory evacuation for non-emergency personnel and family members.  (US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac). The State Department has now urged U.S. citizens in the country to depart while commercial air is available as well as announced that the embassy is “unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

Event: On November 5, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

The Department of State urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Although seats on commercial flights currently remain available, we cannot predict when demand will exceed capacity.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe due to the ongoing armed conflict. Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

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