The main prosecutor in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas said on Tuesday infighting between rival factions of the Gulf drug cartel was the motive for the weekend shooting that killed 19 people, 15 of whom appeared to be innocent passers-by.
State Attorney Irving Barrios told local station Radio Formula that apparently two gangs operating just outside the border town of Reynosa launched the attack on Saturday to weaken the rival Metros faction.
The Metros have long dominated Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. The area is a lucrative corridor for smuggling and smuggling migrants across the US border.
All three factions – the Metros, Scorpions and Cyclones – were part of the Gulf Cartel, but struggles for leadership and territory erupted after the arrest of drug lord Osiel Cárdenas Guillén in 2003, and the split of the Gulf cartel with their former henchmen, the Zetas, around 2010.
Scorpios were once a specialized security force for cartel leaders; now they and the Cyclones are exploiting their own territory of smuggling, trafficking and extortion east of Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Matamoros.
Barrios said trucks carrying Scorpion and Cyclone gunmen entered Reynosa and opened fire “to destabilize Reynosa and gain territory there”.
He said their aim was to “create terror in part of the public so that they can come in and take control.”
There is evidence that the groups of hitmen driving in half a dozen vans sought to cause panic and also robbed people.
“They came to shoot left and right, everywhere,” Barrios said. “They broke into stores, broke into an auto repair shop and stole cell phones and several vehicles, all in an attempt to spread terror. “
Four of the gunmen were killed in shootings with police and members of the National Guard, and a fifth was injured and is in custody.
On Monday, federal prosecutors said they were handling the case and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised “a full investigation”.
But Saturday’s killings in Reynosa, and the latest nationwide homicide figures, suggest that López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” criminal strategy does little to reduce the death toll.
There were 2,963 homicides in May, the last month for which figures are available, higher than May 2020 and well above the numbers that prevailed when López Obrador took office in December 2018.
The government says homicides are down 2.9% in the first five months of 2021 from 2020, but that may be because January and February of this year were marked by the worst wave of coronavirus. in Mexico, when public activities were reduced.
López Obrador sought to avoid confrontations with the drug cartels, at one point freeing a prominent trafficker to prevent bloodshed. He prefers to focus on underlying social issues like youth unemployment.
Earlier this month, López Obrador praised the drug cartels for not disrupting the June 6 midterm vote, even though three dozen candidates were killed during campaigns.
“People who belong to organized crime have behaved very well, in general there have been few acts of violence on the part of these groups,” said the president. “I think the white collar criminals have done worse.”