- The confrontation took place in a small town called Villa Unión, which is 65 kilometers from Piedras Negras, which borders the United States.
- In an interview on Tuesday, Trump said he planned to declare the Mexican cartels terrorist organizations.
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded that he would not accept foreign intervention in the country to deal with violent cartels.
A clash between police and drug traffickers left 14 dead Saturday in the Mexican state of Coahuila, near the US border. The incident comes just days after US President Donald Trump announced that he intended to declare Mexico’s drug cartels “terrorist organizations.”
The confrontation took place in a small town called Villa Unión, which is 65 kilometers from Piedras Negras, which borders the United States. The Coahuila government said the clash between security officials and a heavily armed group of alleged Northwest Cartel (CDN) members began around noon (local time). The shooting lasted over an hour.
According to Coahuila Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme, there are at least four police officers among the dead, six injured and several municipal workers missing. The attackers apparently had kidnapped civilians to help them get out of the town.
Riquelme said the armed group stormed the city of 3,000 people in a convoy of pickup trucks, attacking government offices and forcing state and federal forces to intervene. Ten alleged members of the Northwest Cartel, which emerged from a division of the Los Zetas cartel, were killed by police, he added.
According to the governor, 14 vehicles were used in the attack. More than a dozen guns were seized by the authorities. He assured that police will remain in Villa Unión for a few days to restore security. Authorities asked the population to stay at home to avoid risks. In videos posted on social networks, burning vehicles and bullet marks on the town hall facade can be seen.
In a statement, the Security Secretariat said the government would respond “in full force” to actions like this, and said “the fight against criminal groups is permanent”. The statement read in part that “these groups won’t be allowed to enter state territory.”
The outbreak of violence came amid a surge of tension in bilateral relations between Mexico and the United States. In an interview on Tuesday, Trump said he planned to declare the Mexican cartels terrorist organizations, raising concerns that the move would be a pretext for intervention in the neighboring country.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded that he would not accept foreign intervention in the country to deal with violent cartels. He pointed out that Mexico has the ability to solve the problem. Following the attack on Villa Unión, Riquelme endorsed López Obrador’s position. “I don’t think that Mexico needs intervention. I think Mexico needs collaboration and cooperation. We’re convinced that the state has the power to overcome the criminals,” said the governor, who is from an opposition party.
Coahuila has a history of gang violence. The homicide rate in the state bordering Texas has dropped in recent years. At the national level, however, these numbers are growing. The homicide rate in Mexico rose 2 percent in the first 10 months of López Obrador’s presidency. So far in 2019, Mexican authorities account for 29,414 murders, compared to 28,869 in the same period of 2018.