As they went to the Mexican town of Matamoros, four Americans were abducted by a drug gang and two of them were killed. In light of this, why would the cartel apologize for the event and turn over its own armed guards to the police?
A letter left with the cartel gunmen, who had been trussed up and left on the roadside, accused them of acting “under their own decision-making and lack of discipline” as well as apparently disobeying cartel norms concerning “saving the lives of the innocent”.
The “Scorpions Group,” a breakaway group from the formidable Gulf Cartel, signed it.
The message makes reference to the odd, mistaken sense of civic responsibility that many Mexican gangs assert to have. Groups like the Gulf Cartel and their adversary, the Sinaloa Cartel, preach a perverted code of ethics under which they believe they are protecting the most vulnerable members of Mexican society, despite the widespread dread they instill through extortion, murder, and kidnapping.
Undocumented migrants, who frequently experience kidnapping, rape, and murder, are not included in that twisted conception of compassion and charity. Local businesses are also not exempt from paying “el piso,” a tax that is levied against everyone, including small, family-owned convenience stores and big corporations, simply for doing business there.
But, there is logic to the cartels’ code of conduct, especially in impoverished mountain communities and remote areas of Mexico where organized crime frequently steps in for the state.
Video depicts the abduction of four Americans in Mexico at the time it happened.
One merely needs to consider how they react to natural disasters. Criminal gangs donated emergency supplies and sacks of food, even stamping them with their cartel’s distinctive initials, when hurricanes or earthquakes struck the western state of Guerrero. The Covid lockdowns’ darkest moments also had a similar phenomenon.
The cartels saw themselves as upholding community order and punish child molesters and thieves who do not fall within their scope with harsh summary punishment. They serve as the jury, the judge, and frequently the executioners.
In light of this, the choice to turn in their own shooters following the Matamoros fiasco makes sense: An error was made, an apology was issued, and the offenders turned themselves in. Lawsuit resolved.
Even the Mexican drug gangs are aware of the influence positive PR can have.
Mexican gang surrenders its own members over US abductions
Yet, it must also be taken with a great grain of salt that the mayhem was neatly contained while an apology was made to the city’s citizens.
How can it be known that these five men committed the crimes? Who can you rely on to tell the truth? the narcotics cartel? The office of the state’s attorney general? The best course of action is typically to doubt everything you are told in situations as hazy and confusing as those in Tamaulipas state.
Let’s not forget that Genaro Garcia Luna, formerly the top law enforcement official in Mexico and the man who oversaw the drug war, is currently incarcerated in the US after being found guilty of cooperating with the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes.
police on the streets of Matamoros
SOURCE OF IMAGE: REUTERS
Police patrolling in Matamoros, image caption
In their statements to the public about the Matamoros case, Mexican officials have emphasized the victims’ criminal histories.
We were initially informed that the Americans were here for health tourism, specifically a cheap Mexico belly tuck that went horribly wrong.
A day later, when accusations started to circulate, a Mexican government official provided me information on the victims’ criminal histories, notably that one had been convicted of producing illegal drugs with the intention of supplying them.
Just making sure you see this,” was the innocent remark.
Again, it’s difficult to say whether that was a result of a coordinated effort in Mexico to victimize the victim or because there is concrete evidence that suggests the kidnapping was targeted.
Kidnappings in Mexico may be explained by a cartel error
Why a million Americans risk going to Mexico for medical care each year
One thing that the whole issue has made me think of is a trip I took to Tamaulipas in 2011, not long after coming in Mexico. I learned an important lesson from it about the drug war in Mexico that has stuck with me ever since.
I met the fiancée of a member of the Zetas, a notoriously ruthless cartel that is now virtually disbanded, in a drab hotel room. She explained what her boyfriend did while we recorded her in the shadows with her name changed and her voice masked. It was obvious that he worked in law enforcement and was a Zetas member despite without mentioning the precise organization.
By day a cop, by night a narc.
I foolishly questioned, “What you’re telling me is that there is a very close tie between the cartels and the state?”
Her icy response was, “No, I’m saying the cartels are the state.”