Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that "the entire government is working" on the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Mexico in collaboration with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. AMLO assured that the victims, who had crossed the border "to buy cheap medicine," came across an armed clash between gangs that resulted in their abduction. In addition, the president took the opportunity to lash out against what he called U.S. interventionism and harshly criticized the proposal of several attorneys general and congressmen to consider the cartels as terrorist organizations and use the army against them.
The victims were identified as Latavia "Tay" McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams. Speaking to ABC News, McGee's mother said her daughter traveled to Mexico for cosmetic treatment and her cousin, Woodard, was accompanying her. Williams was the driver of the minivan stopped by the armed men. In fact, Williams' driver's license was found in the vehicle abandoned by Mexican law enforcement.
The victims have been identified as: Latavia "Tay" McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric James Williams.
The mother of Latavia said she had gone to Mexico for a cosmetic medical procedure. https://t.co/HlU6kBnaWt
— Ioan Grillo (@ioangrillo) March 7, 2023
Drug trafficking is the U.S.’s "excuse" to "invade" other countries
The Mexican president, who emphasized his country's efforts to free the victims, devoted much of his speech to criticizing U.S. proposals to classify the cartels as foreign terrorist groups. According to AMLO, this is all about "propaganda" that is not the reality of the situation, nor does it line up with the report presented by the State Department to Congress on Feb. 27, which states that "there are no links in Mexico with terrorist groups and that cooperation on this issue is good."
López Obrador referred specifically to the proposal of Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who called for the intervention of the Armed Forces against organizations that introduce fentanyl into the U.S., citing the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel - New Generation. "Of course it is pure propaganda, however, we must reject any pretenses of interventionism. Mexico is an independent, sovereign country," stressed the leader, who harshly criticized the U.S.'s tendency to intervene with its military in other countries using "the excuse" of "terrorist drug traffickers."
It is not even acceptable for them to be the final word, to say that there is or is not terrorism in a country, who gives them that power? But well, that is a matter, a mania, we had already talked about that, to consider themselves the government of the world. But it is even worse that they want to use military force to intervene in the public life of another country, that is, to invade another country, with the excuse that they are targeting terrorist drug traffickers.
Crenshaw insists on use of military against cartels
The Republican representative replied via Twitter. Crenshaw directly challenged the U.S. president, questioning whether he represents "the cartels or the people." The congressman asked AMLO how he would feel "if an American gang was poisoning 70,000 Mexicans every year with fentanyl?"
All we want is to finally take on the powerful criminal elements that terrorize the Mexican people, pay off and threaten Mexican politicians, and poison Americans.
You’re against that, Mr. President? Who do you represent? The cartels or the people?
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) March 6, 2023
"Unacceptable" for Karine Jean-Pierre
From the U.S. government, White House Press Secretary Karina Jean-Pierre stressed that they are in direct contact with their Mexican counterparts to resolve the case and return the victims to their families as soon as possible. "We are closely following the assault and kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Matamoros, Mexico. This type of attack is unacceptable. We will continue to coordinate with Mexico and press them to bring those responsible to justice," she said. Jean-Pierre indicated that President Biden is aware of what has happened and is being kept informed at all times.
White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre says “U.S. law enforcement is in touch with Mexican law enforcement” following the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens Friday in Matamoros, Mexico. pic.twitter.com/99CIw4MySs
— The Recount (@therecount) March 6, 2023
Matamoros, a city controlled by cartels
Matamoros, the town where the events took place, is located in the state of Tamaulipas, one of the six states which the State Department advises U.S. travelers to avoid. Ioan Grillo, drug cartel journalist and author of the trilogy El Narco, analyzed the situation in cities such as Matamoros, which are controlled by the cartels and where the local media have not even acknowledged the kidnapping of U.S. citizens.
The tragedy of journalism in cartel-controlled cities in Mexico.
In Matamoros, there's an international story of four Americans being kidnapped.
But for some of the city media outlets it's not even on their homepages. I don't blame them. They are under extreme pressure.
— Ioan Grillo (@ioangrillo) March 7, 2023