Lopez Obrador vowed to investigate the border shootings that left 19 people dead over the weekend, even as the latest homicide figures showed a rebound in killings nationwide.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said evidence indicated that 15 of the victims were innocent bystanders. The other four dead were suspected gunmen from a group that drove into the northern border city of Reynosa and opened fire indiscriminately.
“Everything indicates that it was not a confrontation, but rather a commando that shot people who were not involved in any conflict,” López Obrador said.
The government of Tamaulipas state, where Reynosa is located, said in a statement there was evidence the killings involved “organized crime,” which in Mexico is generally used to refer to drug cartels. Cartels in the Reynosa area have become increasingly involved in migrant trafficking or charging protection fees to migrant traffickers.
Raymundo Ramos, who leads one of the state’s most active human rights groups, said he believed the killings were related to the June 6 elections that chose new mayors for Reynosa and most other Mexican cities and towns.
“This is clearly an act of post-electoral terror directed at the people of Reynosa, and probably a warning for the rest of the townships in Tamaulipas,” wrote Ramos. Drug gangs in Mexico rely heavily on intimidating or coopting local governments to extort money or gain protection from municipal police.
Reynosa is located across the border from McAllen, Texas, and has been the scene of fighting between factions of the Gulf cartel. But those disputes usually target rival gunmen or security forces. The dead in the Saturday attack included taxi drivers, workers and a nursing student.
On Monday, federal prosecutors said they were taking over the case, in which one suspect has been arrested. The Attorney General’s Office said the attack was “the result of territorial disputes between gangs from Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas and the cartels that operate in Reynosa.” Rio Bravo is located just to the east of Reynosa.
Authorities are still investigating the motive, though in the past, drug cartels have sometimes used random killings of civilians to turn up the heat on rival gangs, or intimidate local authorities.
López Obrador pledged “a thorough investigation.”
Meanwhile, Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca called the Reynosa victims “innocent citizens,” and said “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.”
García Cabeza de Vaca belongs to the rival National Action Party and is himself being investigated by the federal prosecutor’s office for organized crime and money laundering – accusations he says are part of the plan by López Obrador’s government to attack him for being an opponent.
Earlier this month, López Obrador praised the drug cartels for not disrupting the June 6 mid-term voting, even though three dozen candidates were killed during the campaigns.
“People who belong to organized crime behaved very well, in general, there were few acts of violence by these groups,” the president said. “I think the white-collar criminals acted worse.”
With information from Associated Press
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