Mexico’s president has vowed to investigate border shootings that have killed 19 people over the weekend, even as the latest figures show homicides across the country.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the evidence showed that 15 of the victims were innocent passersby. The other four dead were suspected in an armed group that was driving towards the northern border town of Reynosa and opened fire.
“Everything shows that it was not a confrontation, but rather a commando shooting people who were not involved in any conflict,” said Lopez Obrador.
Located on the other side of McAllen, Texas, Reynosa has been the scene of battles between cartel factions in the Persian Gulf. But these disputes are usually targeted by rival militants or security forces. Among those killed in Saturday’s attack were taxi drivers, staff and a nursing student.
Authorities are still investigating the motive, although in the past drug cartels sometimes used casual killings of civilians to incite rival gangs or intimidate local authorities.
Lopez Obrador asked the federal prosecutor’s office to take over the case and promised a “thorough investigation.”
Maria Elena Morera, director of the Common Case civic anti-crime group, says many people have been hurt by such violence.
“Mexicans have learned all these atrocities without any real reaction,” Morera said. “In the face of so much violence, people prefer not to let the pain go away.”
Saturday’s killings in Reynosa, like recent nationwide homicide figures, suggest that Lopez Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” crime strategy is doing little to reduce homicides.
There were 2,963 homicides in May, the last month for which data are available, higher than in May 2020, much higher than the numbers that prevailed when Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018.
The government says killings fell 2.9 percent in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020, but that may be because January-February of this year was marked by Mexico’s worst coronavirus wave. , when public activities were reduced.
“This is nothing,” Morera said of the fall. “It’s as if you’re holding a patient in a coma and saying he’s feeling very well.”
The governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vacana, called the victims “innocent citizens.” “Criminal organizations must receive a clear, unequivocal, strong signal from the federal government that there will be no room for impunity or tolerance for the perpetrator.” behavior. “
Garcia Cabeza de Vaca belongs to the rival “National Action” party, he is being investigated by the federal prosecutor’s office for organized crime, money laundering. According to him, the accusations are part of the government of Lopez Obrador to attack him as an opponent.
Local businessman Misael Chavararia Garza says many businesses have closed since the early attacks on Saturday, “people are very scared because the helicopters are over their heads.”
On Sunday, he said: “People were silent, as if nothing had happened, but with a sense of anger, because now a crime has happened to innocent people.”
The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a police recruiting center at the National Guard.
The criminal activity in the area has long been dominated by the Gulf cartel; there have been fractures in that group. Experts note that since 2017, there has been an internal struggle within the group to control the main areas of drug and human trafficking. Apparently, a cell from a nearby town could enter Reynosa to carry out the attacks.
Olga Ruiz, whose 19-year-old brother Fernando Ruiz was killed by gunmen, said her brother and sister worked as a plumber and bricklayer in a company owned by her stepfather to pay their tuition.
“They killed him cold-heartedly, he and his two companions,” said Olga Ruiz, adding that gunmen had arrived at her brother’s drain.
“They heard the shots from a distance. My stepfather said to him, ‘Son, you must take refuge.’ “So he asked permission to enter the house, but my brother and his companions were going to get in the cars as soon as they got there.” “They stopped in front of them and started firing.”
Lopez Obrador tried to avoid confrontations with drug cartels by releasing the best trafficker for a moment to avoid bloodshed. He prefers to focus on solving social problems such as youth unemployment.
Earlier this month, Lopez Obrador praised the drug cartels for not disrupting the June 6 midterm vote, despite the killing of 30 candidates during the campaign.
“People who belong to organized crime behaved very well. In general, there were few cases of violence by these groups,” he said. “I think the white-collar criminals did worse.”