President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been promoting his “hugs not bullets” policy to tamp down the violence in Mexico since he took office in 2018. It’s not working too well.
Last year, more than 34,000 Mexicans were killed in the cartel violence that continues to rack the country. It’s no better this year for the people of Reynosa, a small town just across the border from McAllen, Texas.
On a bright Saturday afternoon, gunmen drove through the town in SUVs and opened fire — not on rival gangs or on the authorities but on innocent civilians. They rampaged through several neighborhoods, shooting down anyone who moved.
The result was at least 14 dead and many wounded. Numbers are hard to come by when cartel violence is concerned, but local reports say as many as 18 innocent civilians lost their lives. Security forces responded immediately and killed four of the attackers.
And these were innocent civilians. As far as authorities can determine, none of the victims had any connection to cartels or criminal activity of any kind.
I doubt the people of Reynosa have any hugs to give the cartel members who shot up their town.
Various cartels are battling for control of smuggling routes to the US that are used to transport drugs, weapons and people.
Successive governments have failed to bring the crime syndicates under control. Many have accused law enforcement and the judiciary of colluding with the gangs, or of having succumbed wholesale to corruption.
Spiraling homicide statistics, instability and high levels of corruption have led some US commentators to conclude that Mexico is on the path to becoming a failed state.
It’s believed that Reynosa, a major drug distribution portal for the Gulf Cartel, is seeing some internal cartel strife. Why random innocents were targeted isn’t clear. No motive would make any sense to the people of Reynosa, anyway.
The attacks took place in several neighborhoods in eastern Reynosa, according to the Tamaulipas state agency that coordinates security forces, and sparked a deployment of the military, National Guard and state police across the city. Images posted on social media showed bodies in the streets.
Authorities say they are investigating the attacks and haven’t provided a motive.
But the area’s criminal activity has long been dominated by the Gulf Cartel and there have been fractures 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, one cell from a nearby town may have entered Reynosa to carry out the attacks.
“They killed him in cold blood, he and two of his companions,” said Olga Ruiz, speaking of her dead brother.
“They heard the gunshots from afar and my stepfather told him: ‘son, you have to take shelter.’ So he asked permission to enter a house but my brother and his companions were only about to enter when the vehicles arrived,” Ruiz said. “They stopped in front of them and started to shoot.”
They could probably hear the gunfire in McAllen. Wouldn’t you wonder if you live in that Texas city if it could happen there? With Joe Biden as president, the cartels will learn soon enough they have nothing to fear from him and that nightmare may come to pass.