Reporting from Mexico City — Three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez have been killed in drive-by shootings, U.S. officials said Sunday. Two of the dead were U.S. citizens, and the third was the Mexican spouse of a consulate employee.
President Obama expressed outrage at the slayings in a statement from the White House.
FOR THE RECORD:
A subheadline on an earlier version of this article said a U.S. Consulate worker and his wife had been killed. It should have said a U.S. Consulate worker and her husband.
In response to escalating violence, the State Department told employees they could send family members and other dependents home to the U.S. from six northern Mexico cities where Washington maintains consulates.
The three who were killed Saturday, in broad daylight in the middle of the city, are the latest casualties in Mexico's raging drug war, which has claimed thousands of lives in recent years. Ciudad Juárez, located at a critical entry point of drugs into the U.S., is the deadliest city in the country as gangs battle for control of smuggling routes, turf and market share.
The victims of the shootings were an American employee of the U.S. Consulate and her American husband. The couple's infant daughter was with them but was unharmed. The third fatality, in a separate shooting, was the Mexican husband of a Mexican national employed by the consulate. His two children were with him and were injured, Mexican authorities said. The victims' names were not immediately released.
The White House said Obama "shares in the outrage of the Mexican people at the murders of thousands in Ciudad Juárez and elsewhere in Mexico."
He said the U.S. would "continue to work with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his government to break the power of the drug-trafficking organizations that operate in Mexico and far too often target and kill innocent people. This is a responsibility we must shoulder together."
The Mexican government also said it was "profoundly sorrowed" by the slayings but pledged to press ahead with its military-led offensive against drug cartels.
Also Saturday, at least 13 people were killed, some of them beheaded, around the popular beach resort of Acapulco, just as foreign visitors had begun arriving for spring break.
Elsewhere in the Guerrero state where Acapulco is located, 11 other people, including soldiers and suspected traffickers, were killed, authorities said.
The dead in Acapulco included five police officers, authorities said, who were ambushed while on patrol on the city's outskirts about 2 a.m.
Over the next four hours, the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men were discovered in three locations, police said. Four had been beheaded, in the style typical of drug traffickers, who have been at war with one another and with government forces for three years.
The government is especially sensitive to reports of drug-war violence in tourist destinations such as Acapulco and Cancun. But no region is immune. Guerrero state is one of Mexico's most violent: Its position on the Pacific coast makes it a prime transit route for smuggling narcotics to the U.S. and coveted turf for warring cartels.
In June, as Acapulco was putting its hopes on a recovering tourist industry, 18 gunmen and soldiers were killed in battles one weekend in one of the city's seaside neighborhoods.
News channels have been showing video of young U.S., Canadian and European tourists already frolicking on the beaches of Acapulco, as if to say "maybe this year" and convey a sense of normality. And this weekend is a holiday; thousands of Mexican tourists were headed to Acapulco to take advantage of a three-day weekend marking the birthday of 19th century President Benito Juarez.
Heriberto Salinas Altes, head of public security for Guerrero, said authorities were expecting an increase in violence because of newly exploded power struggles among drug gangs.
"We wish to say that security for visitors [to Acapulco] as well as for people who live here is guaranteed," Salinas told La Jornada newspaper.
More than 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Calderón deployed the army to battle cartels in December 2006.