By ALFREDO PEÑA, Associated Press
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) – Fear gripped the Mexican border town of Reynosa after gunmen in vehicles killed 14 people, including taxi drivers, workers and a nursing student, and forces of security responded with operations that killed four.
While this town across the border from McAllen, Texas is accustomed to cartel violence as a key trafficking point, the 14 victims of Saturday’s attacks appeared to be what Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, called “innocent citizens” rather than gang members. killed by a rival.
Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said many businesses closed early on Saturday after the attacks and people were very scared when helicopters flew overhead. On Sunday, he said that “people were silent as if nothing had happened, but with a sense of anger because now the crime has happened to innocent people.”
“It’s not fair,” said taxi driver René Guevara, adding that among the dead were two of his fellow taxi drivers whom he defended and who he said were not involved in the crime. .
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The attacks took place in several neighborhoods in eastern Reynosa, according to the Tamaulipas state agency which coordinates the security forces, and triggered a deployment of the army, National Guard and police to ‘State across the city. Images posted on social media showed bodies in the streets.
Authorities say they are investigating the attacks and have not provided any reasons.
But criminal activity in the region has long been dominated by the Gulf Cartel, and there have been rifts within that group. Experts say there has been an internal struggle within the group since 2017 to control key territories for drug and human trafficking. Apparently, a cell from a nearby town may have entered Reynosa to lead the attacks.
Olga Ruiz, whose 19-year-old brother Fernando Ruiz was killed by the gunmen, said her brother worked as a plumber and bricklayer in a business owned by his stepfather to pay for his education.
“They killed him in cold blood, him and two of his companions,” said Olga Ruiz, adding that the gunmen had arrived where her brother was repairing a drain.
“They heard the gunshots from afar and my father-in-law said to him, ‘Son, you must take shelter.’ So he asked for permission to enter a house, but my brother and his companions were not about to enter until the vehicles arrived, ”Ruiz said. “They stopped in front of them and started shooting. “
Authorities arrested a person carrying two apparently kidnapped women in the trunk of a car on Saturday.
Security is one of the great challenges facing the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He assured Mexicans he was addressing the root causes of the violence and, since starting his administration in December 2018, he has advocated “hugs, not bullets” in the treatment of criminals. He also says he is fighting corruption to stop the infiltration of organized crime among the authorities.
But the violence continues.
“Criminal organizations must receive a clear, explicit and forceful signal from the federal government that there will be no room for impunity, nor tolerance for their reprehensible criminal behavior,” said García Cabeza de Vaca of the rival party. national action. “In my government, there will be no truce for the violent.
But García Cabeza de Vaca himself is under investigation by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime and money laundering – charges he says are part of López Obrador’s plan to attack him as an opponent.
Tamaulipas – the state where the Zetas cartel was born and where the Gulf cartel continues to operate – has seen several of its former governors of the Institutional Revolutionary Party accused of corruption and links to organized crime. A former governor, Tomás Yarrington, was extradited from Italy to the United States in 2018 for drug trafficking.
Associated Press reporter María Verza contributed to this report.
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