Mexican drug cartels control fate of cities of Matamoros, Reynosa

By Andrew V. Pestano
Moises Sanchez, a Mexican journalist, was abducted outside his home by gunmen on Jan. 2 and found decapitated three weeks later. Photo courtesy of Sanchez's family
Moises Sanchez, a Mexican journalist, was abducted outside his home by gunmen on Jan. 2 and found decapitated three weeks later. Photo courtesy of Sanchez's family

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico, April 2 (UPI) -- The governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas visited the city of Matamoros, attempting to comfort the citizens of the border town plagued with continuous drug gang violence.

"We know that in this region of the state we still have 'events,' but, well, you know that at the last meeting we had here with the Office of Homeland Security that specific measures were issued that are in place," Governor Egidio Torre Cantú said according to El Mañana. He added that security "is something we all want and continue to work... to achieve."


The Mexican state of Tamaulipas has long hosted drug violence, including shootouts in public places.

More than 12 people died in shootouts in the cities of Reynosa and Matamoros in early February. An explosive was also found outside Matamoros City Hall, but did not detonate as it was an apparent dummy grenade. In early March, two people died in a public shootout in Matamoros, once a vibrant tourist town, where many businesses have now closed.


The violence has been attributed to rivaling factions of the Gulf Cartel.

In Matamoros, the city of about half a million people that lies across the border from Brownsville, Texas, periodic violence including shootouts can occur between militias of drug cartels, or between ski-masked Mexican security soldiers and coked-up drug cartels members.

People have gone so far as to request bus transport not make stops at Reynosa. The majority of travelers buy tickets for the daytime and there are barely any ticket sales for nighttime travel.

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"Most people who are traveling to Monterrey asked to run directly, that the bus does not go to Reynosa because there is fear among travelers," an anonymous employee of a motor carrier said. "Because the truth itself is there is fear among families who are approaching us to buy tickets, but they tell us they would like to travel, to visit relatives... with fear, but they are traveling."

Journalists and politicians all over Mexico are targeted for speaking out about the crimes.

"The newspapers only publish simple things like car accidents. They don't publish what's really happening," a clothes vendor in Matamoros named Hugo told NPR. "My daughters monitor Facebook, and they'll call me and say, 'Papi, don't go near 18th and 20th streets, there's a shootout there!' And so I don't go out."


Citizens in Matamoros fear shootouts and kidnappings.

Juan, a 29-year-old Mexican-American, used to own a jewelry shop in Matamoros. He was kidnapped for a week in 2013, and was beaten every day. He was kept in a foul-smelling room with blood stains on the walls and without a toilet.

"I actually start thinking they feel pleasure when they hit me," Juan told NPR. His parents paid nearly $42,000 for his release and on the eighth day of his capture, he was driven for two hours in a van and hit over the head, losing consciousness. He woke up and walked for hours until he heard traffic and spotted a farmhouse.

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"I woke up in the hospital," Juan said. "The first person I saw was my mom and my dad. I just start crying."

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