Mexico: Murder of two Americans reignites cartel controversy

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham calls for military intervention in the fight against drug traffickers at the border. The Mexican president accuses the U.S. of "considering itself the government of the world."

Former U.S. Attorney General, William Barr had just warned about it in his op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal where he wrote: "the danger cartels pose to the U.S. requires that we confront them primarily as national-security threats, not a law-enforcement matter. These narco-terrorist groups are more like ISIS than like the American mafia." And 24 hours later, reality proved him right: four Americans were kidnapped in broad daylight in Mexico.

The Mexican authorities did not consider the disappearance to be serious. As Telemundo later reported, they did not begin to investigate the incident until four days had passed. It was already too late. Hours later, the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) confirmed the sad news: two of them (Shaeed Woodard and Zindel Brown) had been killed, and the other two (Latavia 'Tay' McGee and Eric James Williams) were being taken by the country's authorities to the Texas border to seek medical assistance.

Since then, there have been continuous developments in the case. First, a 24-year-old man, José Guadalupe N., was arrested as one of the suspects in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the two young men. However, according to Fox News, they could not be sure that the arrested man belonged to the Gulf Cartel, the group blamed for the abduction of the Americans.

The same media outlet expanded on the reason for the group´s trip to Mexico: Latavia McGee (the only one who was not seriously injured during the kidnapping) wanted to undergo abdominoplasty surgery. This was the second time she had arranged for this treatment, according to her relatives.

Research Update: restrictions on travel to Mexico

The other survivor, Eric James Williams, was shot three times in the leg, as reported by his wife to CNN. She was able to speak with her husband as he was being transported to a hospital in Texas and conveyed to the network her emotions upon hearing her husband speak, "I was just glad to hear his voice."

Both he and Latavia McGee are already back on U.S. soil, as relayed by the FBI in a statement, which it also stated, that they are still investigating all the facts surrounding the kidnapping:

This is still an ongoing criminal investigation... Our FBI Victim Services personnel from multiple field offices have been working diligently to assist both the victims and their family members as they recover from this traumatic event. We are working with DoS on the recovery of the deceased victims to the United States.

As events unfolded, the United States took action. The State Department reactivated the alert and advised the nation's citizens to avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring Break. In addition, they reminded government employees of the following:

They may not travel between cities after dark, may not hail taxis on the street, and must rely on dispatched vehicles, including app-based services like Uber, and regulated taxi stands. U.S. government employees should avoid traveling alone, especially in remote areas. U.S. government employees may not drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico, except daytime travel within Baja California and between Nogales and Hermosillo on Mexican Federal Highway 15D, and between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey on Highway 85D.

Mexico map shared by the State Department recommending US citizens to avoid travels to Mexico during Spring Break.
Screenshot / US State Department

Controversy over U.S. intervention in Mexico returns

The news of the kidnapping raised controversy. Senator Lindsey Graham asserted that part of the blame for the situation was due to the White House's failure to act sooner: "This administration has done nothing about it." For this reason, he assured that, at this point, he intended to prepare a regulation to prevent a situation like this from happening again:

I’m going to introduce legislation, Jesse, to make certain Mexican drug cartels foreign terrorist organizations under U.S. law and set the stage to use military force if necessary to protect America from being poisoned by things coming out of Mexico.

Graham used his appearance on Fox News to send a clear message to AMLO: "I would say to the Mexican government to clean up your act or we’re going to clean it up for you."

The President of Mexico responded to Graham's statements. AMLO criticized the "mania" and "bad habit" of the United States of "considering itself the government of the world," and trying to intervene in matters that, according to him, affect other governments internally:

But it is even worse that they want to use military force to intervene in the public life of another country. In other words, invading another country with the excuse that they are targeting terrorist drug traffickers. Of course, it is pure propaganda. However, all these pretensions of interventionism must be rejected. Mexico is an independent, sovereign country.