The Mexican president pledged to investigate border shootings that resulted in 19 deaths over the weekend, although the latest figures from recent killings showed a rebound in killings internationally.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the evidence indicates that 15 of the victims were innocent. The other four dead were suspected gunsmiths from a group that entered the northern border town of Reynosa and fired indiscriminately.
“It all indicates that it was not a confrontation, but a commando who shot people who were not involved in the conflict,” López Obrador said.
Reynosa is on the other side of the border from McAllen, Texas, and has been the scene of fighting between Gulf cartel gangs. These conflicts are usually aimed at enemy weapons or security forces. The dead in Saturday’s attack were taxi drivers, staff and a nursing student.
Authorities continue to investigate the motives, but in the past drug cartels have sometimes used random killings of civilians to turn on the heat of rival gangs or to intimidate local authorities.
López Obrador asked the federal prosecutor to take over the case and ordered that he conduct a “thorough investigation”.
María Elena Morera, director of the Common Cause crime group, said many people felt against the violence.
“Mexicans have become accustomed to all of this atrocities without any real reaction,” Morera said. “In the face of so much violence, people prefer not to let go of the pain and stay away.”
The killings on Saturday in Reynosa and the latest data on recent national killings suggest that López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” crime strategy does little to reduce homicides.
There were 2,963 murders in May, the highest number available in the last month, higher than in May 2020, and above the numbers in December 2018 when López Obrador took office.
The government said killings were down 2.9 percent in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020, but it may have been the worst coronavirus wave in Mexico in January and February this year, when public activities fell.
“This is nothing,” Morera said of the decline. “Keep a patient in a coma and say he’s fine.”
Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca called the victims of Reynosa “innocent citizens” and said: “Criminal institutions must receive a clear, explicit and strong signal that the federal government will have no room for impunity or tolerance for their reprehensible criminals.” behaviour “.
García Cabeza de Vaca is a member of the National Action Party, and he is being investigated by the federal prosecutor’s office for organized crime and money laundering – allegations that López Obrador’s government is part of a plan to attack him for being an opponent.
Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said many businesses were closed in early Saturday after the attacks and people were very scared when helicopters flew over them.
On Sunday, he said: “People were silent as if nothing had happened, but with a feeling of anger, because now the crime has happened to innocent people.”
The attacks caused the military, National Guard and state police to deploy throughout the city.
Criminal activity in the area has long dominated the Gulf cartel and there have been ruptures within that group. Experts say there has been an internal struggle in 2017 within the group to control key territories for drug and human trafficking. Apparently, a cell from a nearby village was able to enter Reynosa to carry out the attacks.
Olga Ruiz, the 19-year-old brother of Fernando Ruiz who was killed by gunmen, said his brother was working as a plumber and bricklayer in a company that paid for his father’s studies.
“He and his two friends were killed in cold blood,” Olga Ruiz said, adding that the gunmen had arrived at the spot where their brother was repairing the drain.
“They heard gunfire from a distance and his father-in-law said, ‘Son, you have to take shelter.’ So he asked permission to enter a house but my brother and his friends were only about to enter when the vehicles arrived,” Ruiz said. “They stopped in front of them and started firing.”
López Obrador wanted to avoid confrontations with drug cartels, and at one point released a high-ranking trafficker to prevent bloodshed. He prefers to tackle underlying social problems like youth unemployment.
Earlier this month, López Obrador praised the drug cartels for not interrupting the June 6 midterm vote, even though three dozen candidates were killed in the campaigns.
“People who were part of organized crime behaved very well, there were few acts of violence by these groups in general,” the president said. “I think the white-collar criminals acted worse.”