Two American citizens were recently kidnapped in the dangerous city of Matamoros, Mexico, due to the ongoing cartel violence that plagues the region. Witnesses to the abduction have described the violent scene, and the local media’s reluctance to report on such episodes has created an information vacuum.
According to witnesses, the gunmen appeared suddenly and forced one woman, who was able to walk, into the back of a pickup truck. Another person was carried to the truck but could still move his head. The other two victims were dragged across the pavement, and it is unknown if they were alive or dead at the time.
Mexican authorities arrived on the scene shortly after the abduction occurred, but they have provided no further details about the victims or the circumstances surrounding the incident. The U.S. Consulate issued an alert about the danger in the area, and local authorities warned people to shelter in place due to the ongoing shootouts in the city.
The State Department has long warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Tamaulipas, the state where Matamoros is located, due to the high levels of violence and cartel activity. However, many U.S. citizens still cross the border to visit family, attend medical appointments, or shop.
As the headquarters of the Gulf cartel, Matamoros has a long history of violence and has become increasingly dangerous over the past 10 to 15 years. Once a popular destination for spring breakers visiting nearby South Padre Island, the city has seen much of its tourism business disappear as a result of the cartel violence.
Unfortunately, incidents like the recent abduction of the two American citizens are not uncommon in Matamoros. In October 2014, three American siblings visiting their father in the city were kidnapped and later found shot to death and burned. Their parents reported that the men who abducted them were dressed in police gear and identified themselves as part of a tactical security unit known as “Hercules.”
The violence in Matamoros and other large border cities of Tamaulipas often goes uncounted due to the cartels’ practice of taking bodies with them. Local media also frequently avoid reporting on such incidents out of safety concerns, leaving an information vacuum that makes it difficult to track the true extent of the violence.
The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, issued a statement following the recent abduction, confirming that the Americans were kidnapped at gunpoint and expressing his condolences for the Mexican citizen who died in the attack. Salazar also stated that various U.S. justice agencies were working with their Mexican counterparts to recover the missing persons.
President Joe Biden has been informed of the situation, but his press secretary declined to answer further questions, citing privacy concerns. The family of one of the abducted Americans has asked people to share any relevant information with local authorities, but as of now, there have been no updates on the status of the missing persons.
The ongoing violence in Matamoros and other parts of Tamaulipas underscores the need for continued efforts to combat the cartels and improve public safety in the region. Until this happens, U.S. citizens and others who cross the border into Mexico will continue to face significant risks and potential danger.