Mexico cartel letter claims members who killed Americans turned themselves in to police

Ciudad Victoria, Mexico – A letter claiming to be from a Mexican drug cartel accused of kidnapping four Americans and killing two of them condemned the violence and said the gang had held its own members responsible.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press through a Tamaulipas state law enforcement official, the Gulf Cartel’s Scorpions faction apologized to residents of Matamoros, where the Americans were abducted, including the Mexican woman who died in the cartel shootout. and four Americans and their families.

“We have decided to hand over those who were directly involved and responsible for the incidents, who at all times acted under the influence of their own decision-making and lack of discipline,” the letter read. Including “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent”.

Drug cartels are known to release communications to intimidate rivals and authorities, but there are times when public relations tries to smooth over situations that may affect their business. And last Friday’s violence in Matamoros was bad for cartel business.

Mexican security analyst David Saucedo said the killings of Americans brought patrols of National Guard soldiers and an organization of army special forces that, in narco terminology, “heated up the plaza”.

“It is very difficult for them right now to continue to operate in terms of selling the drug at the street level and moving drugs into the United States; They are the first to be interested in closing this chapter as quickly as possible,” Soredo said.

The letter was accompanied by a photo of five men gagged on a sidewalk, which was shared by the official with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share the document.

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State officials did not immediately publicly confirm the new suspects in custody.

A separate state security official said five people with the letter were found bundled up inside a vehicle that authorities were searching for. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

A cousin of one of the victims said his family felt “great” to know that Eric Williams, who was shot in the left leg, was alive, but would not accept an apology from the cartel convicted of kidnapping the Americans. does.

“It’s not going to change anything about the pain that we’ve gone through,” Jerry Wallace told the AP on Thursday. Wallace, 62, called on the US and Mexican governments to better address cartel violence.

Last Friday, four Americans came from Texas to Matamoros so that one of them could have cosmetic surgery. Around noon, they were dropped off in downtown Matamoros and then loaded into a pickup truck. A Mexican woman, 33-year-old Areli Pablo Servando, was also killed, apparently by a stray bullet.

Another friend, who lived in Brownsville, called police on Friday morning after being unable to reach the group crossing the border.

Martin Sandoval, a spokesman for the Brownsville Police Department, said Thursday that officers followed protocol by checking local hospitals and jails after receiving reports of missing persons. Within hours a detective was assigned to the case and the FBI was alerted after realizing people had entered Mexico. Shortly after, the FBI took over the case after social media videos began showing shootouts with victims matching the description of the missing persons.

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Officers located him on the outskirts of the city on Tuesday morning, guarded by one of the men arrested. Jindal Brown and Shaid Woodard died in the attack; Williams and Latavia Magee escape.

On Thursday, two hearse carrying the bodies of Woodard and Brown crossed the international bridge in Brownsville, where the remains were handed over to US authorities.

Woodard’s cousin, McGee, had surprised him with the fatal road trip as a birthday present, according to his father, James Woodard. He said he was left speechless to hear that the cartel had apologized for the violent kidnapping that killed his son and was captured in footage that quickly spread online.

James Woodard said, “Just being helpless – not being able to do anything, not being able to go out there and save them – it’s really painful.”

Thursday’s letter was not an unheard-of cartel tactic.

The cartels’ community relations efforts are well known in Mexico. In disputed territory, a cartel may hang banners around a city blaming a rival for recent violence and distinguish itself as a gang that doesn’t mess with civilians.

Last November, such banners appeared around the state of Guanajuato, allegedly written by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which blamed a rival for murders in bars and other businesses.

In other situations, the message is more clear: bodies are left inside a vehicle with a note or hung from a highway overpass on a heavily trafficked street. Inspiration is terror.

More subtly, cartels use their power to plant stories in the local press or prevent stories from appearing. Its members are active on social media.

Their underlying interest is to facilitate their business, be it smuggling of drugs and migrants or extortion.

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Sometimes a cartel will pillage its opponent’s territory in hopes of triggering a law enforcement response to make business difficult for its opponents. That’s what happened two years ago in Reynosa, just over the border from Matamoros. Gunmen fired into the city and killed 14 innocent people.

Handing over alleged cartel suspects to the police is also not without precedent. Sorredo warned that a cartel leader may have authorized the attack, then regretted it and decided to sacrifice the police.

In 2008, drug traffickers threw grenades into a crowd celebrating Mexico’s independence in Michoacán, killing eight people. A few days later, authorities arrested three suspects, but it was revealed that they had been kidnapped by a cartel, beaten into confessing to a rival group, and handed over to the police.

Meanwhile, the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office said on Thursday it had seized an ambulance and a medical clinic in Matamoros that was allegedly used to provide treatment to Americans after the shooting.

The statement said the Americans told investigators they were taken to the clinic in an ambulance for first aid. By reviewing police surveillance video from around the city, officers were able to identify the ambulance and find the clinic. According to the statement, no arrests were made at the clinic.

• Stevenson reported from Mexico City and Pollard from Lake City, South Carolina. Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, and Hillary Powell, an Associated Press video journalist in Lake City, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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