The startling move by a Mexican drug cartel to publicly apologize after four US citizens were abducted in broad daylight last week, leaving two dead, comes as experts said it would punish the alleged kidnappers. was handed over. NBC News on Friday.
While the Gulf Cartel doesn’t run the Mexican city of Matamoros, the city just south of Brownsville, Texas, where four Americans were taken last week, they rule the streets, experts said.
“I wouldn’t say that the Gulf Cartel is actually the government in this part of Mexico, but they certainly operate with impunity, and most of the time what they do doesn’t attract much international attention,” he said. Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington, DC-based think tank.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the cartel condemned the violence and said it had replaced members who were involved. A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that US officials believe the letter is legitimate.
The translation of the letter read, “The Gulf Cartel Grupo Escorpiones strongly condemns the events of Friday, March 3, which unfortunately resulted in the death of an innocent working mother and the kidnapping of four US citizens, two of whom Died.” “For this reason, we have decided to charge those involved and directly responsible for the incident, who at all times acted under their own volition and indiscipline and acted against the rules under which CDG Has always worked.”
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter said a woman in the group was seeking a cosmetic medical procedure and that cartel gunmen targeted the group in a case of mistaken identity.
Rudman said the Gulf Cartel crossed a line with the deadly kidnapping, incurring the wrath of the US government and creating an international incident.
Rudman said, “My guess is that by issuing apologies and turning some people over, they are trying to tone down the atmosphere.” “Whether these are the real suspects or some fallers remains to be seen.”
Ricardo Ainslie, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who made the 2007 documentary film “Ya Basta!: Kidnapped in Mexico,” agreed.
Ainslie said, “I have never heard of any cartel apologizing or turning over suspects.” “It’s not just their MO. I suspect that because of the kidnapping, they are under immense pressure, and not just from (Mexican) federal and state authorities.”
Ainslie said that cartels such as the Gulf Cartel have been involved in “hundreds and hundreds of murders” that rarely get notice outside of Mexico.
“The last thing they want is a lot of attention like this,” he said.
Wanda Felbach-Brown of The Brookings Institution, an expert on Mexican cartels and author of “Narco Noir: Mexico’s Cartels, Cops and Corruption,” said the Gulf Cartel is especially wary of direct confrontation with US officials.
The kidnapping of four Americans drew a lightning-quick response from US and Mexican authorities, who on Tuesday located the two victims and the two survivors — the kind of swift action relatives of Mexicans abducted by the cartel say is rarely seen. This happens when their loved ones go missing.
Felbach-Brown said, “If the Americans were not involved in the kidnapping and the killings none of this would have happened.” “If the victims were Mexican, their bodies would be buried and the survivors would never be seen again. But this gang knows that the United States has tremendous deterrent skills, tremendous investigative capabilities, and the ability to hunt people down.” wish.”
Back in 2010, when Mexican cartel associates murdered American consular employees in Ciudad Juárez, then-President Barack Obama dispatched hundreds of investigators, and with the assistance of Mexican authorities, they were able to track down the perpetrators.
“The Mexican government doesn’t have those kinds of resources and the cartels know it,” Felbach-Brown said. “So when the Gulf Cartel realized their men had mistakenly gone after the Americans, they decided it would be wiser to let them off and apologize.”
There were already signs in Washington that the apology was falling flat.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on Friday, “These criminal organizations can say whatever they want.” “The safety of American citizens is the first priority of the President. Whoever is responsible for killing or harming American citizens will face the full burden of the US government, and that includes a cartel and its members.
Even before the incident, the Gulf Cartel, based in northeastern Mexico in the states of Tamaulipas and Zacatecas, was struggling to break apart and face competition from rival cartels, according to a report last year compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations. ,
Experts weighed in the same day that Irving Barrios Mojica, the attorney general of Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is, announced that five people linked to the fatal kidnapping had been arrested on charges of kidnapping and premeditated simple murder.
It was not clear whether these were the same people the Gulf Cartel claimed to have handed over to local authorities.
“They could very well be men who were coerced into getting involved by the Gulf Cartel,” Ainslie said.
Or they could be five men who have no ties to the cartel, said Cecilia Farfan-Mendez, an expert on organized crime and US-Mexico security cooperation at the University of California, San Diego. She urged caution in believing the apology’s authenticity and taking it at face value.
“Even if we assume it was a criminal group that wrote the message, the action is not necessarily about saving face and it may not even be a criminal group,” Farfan-Mendez said in an email to NBC News.
“To be sure, the kidnapping of four American citizens and the murder of two will create enormous pressure on the Mexican authorities to respond. And as tempting as it may be to tell this story as a criminal group that made a mistake Of course, I would caution against such simplistic narratives.”