EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — As violence raged in Juarez for a third consecutive day, some American political figures called on the United States to get more involved in Mexico’s fight against organized criminal groups.
“El Paso has a lot of things going on right (but) there’s this thing that is deeply troubling, which is the level of violence that ultimately is going to impact investment decisions in this region,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was here for a business event.
He said the United States must support the Mexican government but at the same time demand its full commitment “to make the effort to eradicate the gangsters that are preying on Mexican citizens, particularly in the North.”
Earlier this week, nine members of a Mormon community in Chihuahua who were traveling through the state of Sonora were killed in an ambush, presumably by members of a drug gang that mistook them for a rival group. The victims were three adult women and six children, all of them U.S. citizens.
And Tuesday night in Juarez, gang members killed eight men and burned 15 vehicles to stop a raid on a local prison where druglords allegedly continue to operate. Five more killings were reported on Wednesday and more vehicles were burned on Thursday, bringing the total to 23 in three days.
“It has to be done,” Bush said. “Think about the nine family members, the American citizens who lost their lives in such grotesque way. This is not the first time that this happens and it’s important for us not to ignore it.”
The former Republican presidential candidate said killings in Mexico sometimes are dismissed as “gangsters killing each other off,” which may or not be the case. He said the United States should make the fight against organized crime in Mexico “a higher priority than it is right now.”
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, suggests more aggressive intelligence-sharing between the two countries when it comes to the Mexican drug cartels.
“We should be treating drug trafficking organizations and human smugglers as a national intelligence priority,” said Hurd, a former CIA officer. “We should be using all the tools in the tool kit to fight this problem and we have to do it with our allies in Mexico. … I think we can see how dangerous and despicable the drug cartels are when they’re killing 6-month-old babies.”
Juarez cartel linked to Mormon slayings
A spokesman for Mexico’s Defense Department told reporters in Mexico City that “La Linea” drug trafficking organization is suspected of involvement in the killings of the nine American women and children on a road near a ranch in Sonora, Mexico, on Monday.
Gen. Homero Mendoza, chief of staff of the Defense Department, said the Juarez-based group — formerly known as the Juarez cartel — had shot it out with a Sinaloa cartel proxy called “Los Salazar” hours before near the area where the LeBaron family was shot on Monday.
According to Mexican government officials, the Salazars and La Linea are at war because La Linea wants access to smuggling routes in Agua Prieta, Sonora, across the border from Douglas, Arizona, and the Salazars are making incursions into Chihuahua state.
“Based on this, we are assuming that the criminal organization ‘La Linea,’ responding to this threat — the intention of the Salazars of going into Chihuahua — decide to send a cell (to Sonora) … to stop incursions by the Salazars into Chihuahua, and it is this cell to whom we are attributing the aggressions to the LeBaron and Langford families,” Mendoza said in a press conference broadcast on YouTube.
Mendoza said the LeBaron and Langford families used SUV vehicles “which are commonly used by members of organized crime to move about in the mountains.” He said that prompts authorities to believe the hypothesis of a case of mistaken identity. “It was not a direct aggression,” he emphasized.
He also said one of the vehicles burst in flames due to gunfire, the victims were not intentionally set on fire. The killers fired at least 200 bullets from AR-15 and M-16 rifles, he added.