The Mexican president promised to investigate the border shootings that killed 19 people over the weekend, even though the latest homicide data shows a rebound in homicides across the country.
President Andres Manuel López Obrador said that there is evidence that the 15 victims were innocent bystanders. The other four deceased were suspected of being gunmen. They drove into the northern border city of Reynosa and opened fire indiscriminately.
Lopez Obrador said: “Everything shows that this is not a confrontation, but a commando shooting people who were not involved in any conflict.”
Reynosa is located across the border from McAllen, Texas, and has been a battleground between the Gulf Cartel factions. But these disputes usually target rival gunmen or security forces. The dead in Saturday’s attack included taxi drivers, workers and a nursing student.
Authorities are still investigating motives, although in the past drug cartels sometimes used random killings of civilians to anger rival gangs or intimidate local authorities.
Lopez Obrador asked federal prosecutors to take over the case and promised to conduct a “thorough investigation.”
María Elena Morera, head of the citizen anti-crime organization Common Cause, said many people have become accustomed to this type of violence.
“Mexicans have become accustomed to all these atrocities without any real reaction,” Moreira said. “Faced with so much violence, people would rather not let the pain in, but turn around and leave.”
The killings in Reynosa on Saturday and the latest national homicide data show that Lopez Obrador’s “hug, not bullet” criminal strategy has little effect on reducing killings.
There were 2,963 homicides in May. This is the most recent month for which data is available. It is higher than May 2020 and much higher than the figure when López Obrador took office in December 2018.
The government said that compared with 2020, the number of homicides in the first five months of 2021 dropped by 2.9%, but this may be because January and February of this year were the worst coronavirus wave in Mexico, when public activities were restricted.
“It’s nothing,” Moreira said of the descent. “It’s as if you put the patient in a coma and then said he did a good job.”
The governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, called Reynosa’s victims “innocent citizens” and said: “Criminal organizations must obtain a clear, clear and powerful statement from the federal government. The signal is that there will be no room for impunity, nor will they tolerate their condemned criminal behavior.”
García Cabeza de Vaca belongs to the opposing National Action Party, and he himself is undergoing an organized crime and money laundering investigation by the Federal Attorney’s Office-he says these allegations are part of a plan by the government of Lopez Obrador to attack him as an opponent.
Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said that after the attack, many businesses closed early on Saturday and people were very scared because the helicopter flew overhead.
On Sunday, he said, “People are quiet, as if nothing has happened, but they are angry because now crime has happened to innocent people.”
These attacks triggered the deployment of the army, National Guard and state police throughout the city.
Criminal activities in the area have long been dominated by the Gulf Cartel, and there have also been divisions within the group. Experts say that since 2017, the organization has been fighting internally to control key areas of drug and human trafficking. Apparently, a cell in a nearby town may have entered Reynosa for an attack.
Olga Ruiz’s 19-year-old brother, Fernando Ruiz, was killed by a gunman. She said her siblings worked as plumbers and bricklayers in a company owned by her stepfather to pay for his Studies.
“They killed him coldly, he and his two companions,” Olga Ruiz said, adding that the gunman had reached the place where her brother was repairing the drain.
“They heard gunshots from a distance, and my stepfather told him:’Son, you must hide.’ So he asked for permission to enter a house, but when the vehicle arrived, my brother and his companions were ready to enter,” Ruiz said. “They stopped in front of them and started shooting.”
López Obrador tried to avoid conflict with drug cartels, and once released a top drug dealer to avoid bleeding. He is more willing to focus on solving potential social problems such as youth unemployment.
Earlier this month, Lopez Obrador praised the drug cartel for not disrupting the June 6 midterm vote, despite the killing of three dozen candidates during the campaign.
“Those who belong to organized crime are behaving very well, and in general there is very little violence by these groups,” the president said. “I think the behavior of white-collar criminals is worse.”