Although the motive for the rampage in the northern border town of Reynosa, which left many civilians dead, remains unexplained, security experts point to three possible scenarios: a war within the Gulf cartel, a settling of scores politics or a simple desire to wreak havoc. .
Speaking at a press conference on June 21, President López Obrador blamed the “armed commandos” for the violence and ordered an investigation into the series of shootings in Reynosa which at least 19 dead.
The attacks in Reynosa, which sits on the Mexico-U.S. Border in the state of Tamaulipas, took place in less than two hours on Saturday, with people apparently being targeted at random by gunmen traveling in vans, according to local media. Elefante Blanco. Those killed included nurses, traders, taxi drivers, students and construction workers.
Four armed men – believed to have been among the perpetrators of the violence – died in a shootout with the authorities, Elefante Blanco reported. Two women who were allegedly kidnapped by the armed men were rescued.
While Reynosa is a major criminal hotspot on the border and regularly sees gang shootings, violence on this scale had not been seen for at least four years.
1. Confrontation of the Gulf Cartel
Reynosa, along with other border towns such as Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, has long been a stronghold of the Gulf cartel. This large criminal group experienced a period of stability in northeastern Mexico after the weakening of the Zetas, its main rival.
However, the Gulf Cartel has not been able to avoid the fragmentation that has weakened so many of Mexico’s main criminal groups. According to Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, expert on US-Mexican affairs at George Mason University in Virginia, the Gulf Cartel’s control over criminal border economies is being challenged by a number of rivals.
“Today we can’t talk about just one faction of the Gulf Cartel on the border, they don’t operate consistently… there are different groups,” Correa-Cabrera told InSight Crime.
“There is also the presence of various groups previously associated with the Zetas … many of them are not only engaged in drug trafficking but also kidnapping, extortion, oil theft and piracy,” he said. she explained.
One of the Zetas’ notable splinter groups is the Northeast Cartel, which has steadily gained ground in northeastern Mexico over the past three years and has aggressively challenged control of the Gulf Cartel.
These clashes left a bloody mark. In late April, the Northeast Cartel reportedly killed and burned the bodies of eight people linked to the Gulf Cartel in the town of Camargo, 75 kilometers west of Reynosa. In March, the two criminal groups fought a continuous battle for a whole day between the municipalities of Matamoros and Rio Bravo.
With fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Northeast Cartel having been reported in Reynosa since 2017, it is likely that the recent shootings are linked to this dispute or another feud within the Gulf Cartel.
“One possibility is that [the events in Reynosa] were linked to the protection of the territory, ”said Marisol Ochoa, Tamaulipas security expert at the Iberoamericana University of Mexico, in an interview with InSight Crime.
2. Political realignment
Another hypothesis is that the shootings were due to the recent political upheavals observed in Tamaulipas.
The governor of the state, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, is a fugitive. His political immunity having been lifted, he faces an arrest warrant against him for links to organized crime. In 2004, an investigation indicated that, during his candidacy for mayor of Reynosa, he received bribes from the Gulf Cartel in exchange for protection.
The National Action Party, to which García belongs, recently lost its majority in Tamaulipas’ legislature, which may have forced criminal groups to try to lobby and make new deals with politicians.
“The well-known involvement of security authorities in criminal acts in Tamaulipas indicates that organized crime has always relied on a certain degree of protection… The current political realignment could create instability,” Correa-Cabrera told InSight Crime .
3. Create a climate of fear
Ochoa also suggested to InSight Crime that the violent rampage could have been due to a simpler third option. According to her, these actions were not necessarily part of a calculated plan but were simply aimed at dispelling any sense of security among the population.
“[The events in Reynosa] seem to have been improvised; 14 civilians died who were not involved [in organized crime] … It was a very disorganized operation. It is not necessarily clear what settling of scores may have taken place here, ”Ochoa said.
As Reynosa has experienced a recent period of relative stability without numerous acts of violence of this magnitude, an armed group may have sought to create conflict.
“Sowing fear in the general population is also a tool for criminal groups,” Ochoa told InSight Crime.