A letter saying that a cartel provided men who killed Americans
“We have decided to turn those who were directly involved and responsible for the events, who were always acting under their own decisions and lack of control,” the letter reads, saying that these people had violated the rules of the charter, which includes “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.”
Drug cartels are known to issue communiques to intimidate competitors and authorities, but also at times like this because public relations work to try to resolve situations that could affect it their business. And last Friday’s violence in Matamoros was bad for cartel business.
The killing of the Americans brought National Guard soldiers and Army special forces outfits that ran patrols that “heat the plague” in narco terminology, said Mexican security analyst David Saucedo.
“It’s very difficult right now for them to continue to operate in terms of street-level drug sales and the movement of drugs into the United States; they are the first ones interested in closing this chapter as soon as possible,” said Saucedo.
The letter was accompanied by a photograph of five men tied face down on the pavement, which was shared with The Associated Press by the official on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the document.
State officials did not immediately publicly confirm that new suspects were in custody.
A separate state security official said that five men were found tied up inside one of the vehicles that authorities had been searching for, along with the letter. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
A cousin of one of the victims said his family felt “great” to know Eric Williams, who was shot in the left leg, is alive but is not accepting any apologies from the cartel. blamed for the kidnapping of the Americans.
“It’s not going to change anything about the suffering we went through,” Jerry Wallace told the AP Thursday. Wallace, 62, called on the American and Mexican governments to do a better job of dealing with cartel violence.
Last Friday, the four Americans entered Matamoros from Texas so that one of them could have cosmetic surgery. Around noon, they were shot in the center of Matamoros and then put into a pickup truck. A Mexican woman, Areli Pablo Servando, 33, was also killed, apparently by a stray bullet.
Another friend, who stayed in Brownsville, called the police after they were able to reach the group that crossed the border on Friday morning.
Brownsville Police Department spokesman Martin Sandoval said Thursday that officers followed protocol by checking local hospitals and jails after receiving a missing persons report. A detective was assigned to the case within an hour and then called the FBI after learning that the men had entered Mexico. Soon after, the FBI took over the case when social media videos began showing scenes with the victims matching the description of the missing persons.
Authorities found them on Tuesday morning on the outskirts of the city, protected by a man who was arrested. Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard died in the attack; Survived by Williams and Latavia McGee.
On Thursday, two hearses carrying the bodies of Woodard and Brown crossed the international bridge to Brownsville, where the remains were handed over to US authorities.
Woodard’s cousin, McGee, surprised him with the fatal road trip as a birthday vacation, according to his father, James Woodard. He said he was speechless when he heard the cartel had apologized for the violent kidnapping that killed his son and was caught on video that quickly spread online.
“Just being helpless — not being able to do anything, not being able to go there and just save them — it’s really painful,” James Woodard said.
Thursday’s letter was not a unique cartel tactic.
Cartels community relations efforts are well known in Mexico. In a contested area, one cartel might hang banners around a city blaming a rival for recent violence and branding themselves as the gang that doesn’t hit civilians.
Last November, such flags appeared around the state of Guanajuato, according to a statement written by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which blamed a rival for a series of killings in bars and other businesses.
In other cases, the message is clearer: bodies are left inside a towed vehicle or hanging from a highway on a heavily traveled road. Terror is the motivation.
More subtly, cartels use their power to plant stories in the local media or to keep stories from appearing. Their members are active on social media.
Their basic interest is enabling their business whether it is smuggling drugs and migrants or extortion.
Sometimes a cartel will burn up its competitors’ land in hopes of provoking a law enforcement response to make business difficult for their opponents. That’s what seemed to happen two years ago in Reynosa, just up the border from Matamoros. Gunmen entered the town and killed 14 innocent bystanders.
Handing over cartel suspects to the police is also not without precedent. Saucedo warned that a cartel leader might have authorized the attack and he repented and decided to offer a sacrificial lamb to the police.
In 2008, drug traffickers in Michoacan lobbed hand grenades into a crowd celebrating Mexican independence, killing eight people. A few days later, the authorities arrested three suspects, but it appears that they were kidnapped by a cartel, beaten into a confession that implicated a rival group and turned them over to the police.
Meanwhile, the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office said Thursday that it had seized an ambulance and a medical clinic in Matamoros that were allegedly used to treat the Americans after the shooting. .
The Americans told investigators they were taken to the clinic by ambulance to receive first aid, the statement said. By reviewing police surveillance video around town, authorities were able to identify the ambulance and locate the clinic. No one was arrested at the clinic, according to the statement.
Stevenson reported from Mexico City and Pollard from Lake City, South Carolina. Associate news writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, and Associated Press video correspondent Hilary Powell in Lake City, South Carolina, contributed to this report.