EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The video shot from behind a glass window shows four armed men dragging bodies on the payment to a white pickup with the back gate open.
“They are dragging one of them. They’re (expletive deleted),” a man says behind the camera. “That one is already dead.”
“They are going to toss them as if they were pigs,” says a second male voice.
Motorists in the clip widely shared on social media can be seen patiently waiting on one side of the pickup. Vehicles roll on slowly along the other side of the truck.
The video purporting to show the aftermath of an attack on four American citizens abducted Friday in Matamoros evidences the impunity with which Mexican drug cartels operate, U.S. security experts say.
“The fact that they’re taking their time – they’re not really rushing to get the bodies on the truck – is because they know that the police are not engaging them,” said Michael Ballard, director of intelligence for the international security firm Global Guardian, “and if they do, it’s going to be a while because a Mexican patrolman just with his partner and a sidearm is not going to confront guys with body armor and AK-47s and grenades and all that.”
Friday’s tragedy in Matamoros that claimed the lives of two Americans and left another two hospitalized speaks to an impunity bought with fear and corruption in which Mexican drug cartels operate, Ballard said.
“If you’re a bystander driving around, maybe on the way to the bank or what have you, you’re not going to stop. You’re not going to jump up and help these folks that are surrounded by gunmen,” he said. “It is a real culture of fear in Mexico where even journalists get killed at a high rate because the cartels are pretty potent when it comes to trying to silence people.”
This high-profile act of violence against U.S. citizens in Matamoros, a city across the border from Brownsville, Texas, said to be a battleground between warring factions of the Gulf cartel comes days before most public schools in Texas go on spring break.
Some local officials in Mexico told Border Report they fear the incident will have economic repercussions all along the border.
“It is regrettable that these things are still happening in Mexico. This should set off alarms in border areas because we’re in a season where a lot of residents visit our country, not only for spring break but also for Holy Week,” said Juarez City Council member Enrique Torres Valadez. “It’s bad whenever the U.S. decides to issue travel alerts. It hurts business that cater to U.S. customers.”
Ballard said such fears are justified.
“This type of violence, although it typically does not impact civilians and certainly is pretty rare against Americans, can happen at almost any place at any time,” he said. “You run the risk of getting caught in a crossfire – either cartels against rivals or cartels engaging in a shoot out with security forces. Cities with ports of entry are highly contested places by groups looking to get their drugs into the U.S. and cash and guns back to Mexico.”
Ballard does not discourage people from traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border for spring break, but urges them to stay on the American side this time.
“Border cities certainly are more dangerous than Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Los Cabos. If you’re going to Mexico for spring break, maybe pick one of those locations instead of Tijuana or Matamoros. If you’re going to the border, stay on the U.S. side The violence occurs on the Mexican side because law enforcement is not as effective or perhaps you have more corruption.”
Security firms have long advised their American clients who must travel to Mexico on business to observe common sense, such as:
- Do not travel alone
- Tell a friend or associate when you leave and when you arrive at your destination; ask him or her to periodically check in on you over the phone.
- Don’t walk with your head “buried in your cell phone.”
- Be aware of recent news in the city you will be traveling to, especially if there has been recent violence.
- Identify “safe harbors” you can run to in case of an emergency.