Things That Matter

Drug Cartel Invades A Mexican City And The Resulting Gun Battle Has Left At Least 21 Dead

Mexico continues to be rattled by drug cartel violence and this latest attack, in the north of the country, has Mexicans particularly shocked. So far, 2019 has already seen record violence and homicides. Despite plans from the current federal government, headed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the violence situation across the country has only deteriorated.

A Mexican cartel gun battle near the Texas border leaves 21 dead.

Armed gunmen stormed Villa Union, a town near the Texas border with Coahuila state, on Saturday and attacked local government offices, including that of the mayor. Security forces responded, and 10 gunmen and four policemen were killed during the resulting shootout in the village. Seven additional cartel members were killed by security forces after the attackers fled.

The gunmen peppered the Villa Unión’s mayor’s office with bullets and state police pursued the gang members after they fled the town, killing seven more in the early hours of Sunday, the Coahuila government said in a statement.

The events in Villa Union add to a series of recent security lapses that have raised doubts about the containment strategy of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office a year ago pledging to get a grip on chronic gang violence.

Cartels have been contending for control of smuggling routes in northern Mexico, but there was no immediate evidence that a rival cartel had been targeted in Villa Union.

Credit: Gerardo Sanchez

The Coahuila state government said in a statement that lawmen aided by helicopters were still chasing remnants of the force that arrived in a convoy of pickup trucks and attacked the city hall of Villa Union on Saturday.
Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme said late Sunday afternoon that authorities had determined the casualty count from the gunbattles stood at 14 gunmen dead and four police officers killed. He said two civilians also were slain by gunmen after being abducted. The governor said six more officers were wounded as were four young people who had been taken by the attackers.

Francisco Contreras, an official in the state security agency, said later that the two slain civilians were a firefighter and an engineer who worked for the municipality. He said a second firefighter was missing. The reason for the military-style attack remained unclear.

The attack comes days after President Trump announced he wants to label Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

The attack will likely fuel Trump’s argument for categorizing drug cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations,” just as groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram are classified. He has a history of seeing drug cartels as a major threat and often cites the cartels in stump speeches about the need to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Trump’s latest position on the cartels, however, has alarmed a number of experts because it could give the president license to use US military force against the groups without authorization from the Mexican government. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it clear that he will not allow foreign intervention, and has offered to increase cooperation with the US on fighting drug gangs instead, according to Al Jazeera. His government already works with the US intelligence community and drug and law enforcement officials from the State Department to combat cartel violence. 

“Since 1914, there hasn’t been a foreign intervention in Mexico and we cannot permit that,” López Obrador said at a news conference on Friday. “Armed foreigners cannot intervene in our territory.”

One thing is clear, Mexico is facing extreme violence and its citizens are paying the ultimate price.

Mexico’s homicide rate has increased to historically high levels, inching up by 2 per cent in the first 10 months of the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Federal officials said recently that there have been 29,414 homicides so far in 2019, compared to 28,869 in the same period of 2018.

The November slaughter by Mexican drug cartel gunmen of three women who held US citizenship and six of their children focused world attention on the rising violence.

Saturday’s attack also showed cartels again resorting to quasi-military operations in a brazen challenge to state authority.

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