The Slatest

Shootouts Between Cartels and Police in Mexico Kill at Least 21 Near U.S. Border

Policemen stand guard in the area where heavily armed gunmen waged an all-out battle against Mexican security forces in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico, on October 18, 2019.
Policemen stand guard in the area where heavily armed gunmen waged an all-out battle against Mexican security forces in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico, on October 18, 2019.
ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

It was an extremely violent weekend in northern Mexico as a series of shootouts between security forces and a cartel left at least 21 people dead near the U.S. border. The killings come mere days after President Donald Trump vowed to designate Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, which was met with lots of opposition from Mexican officials.

The bloodshed in northern Mexico began at around noon on Saturday, when members of cartel drove into Villa Unión, which is around 35 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas, and proceeded to unleash a hail of gunfire on the town hall. Videos and photos of the aftermath showed the town hall riddled with bullet holes. A total of 14 people were killed in the shootouts Saturday, including four police officers. The government of the northern state of Coahuila then said that security forces had killed an additional seven gunmen early Sunday.

It is unclear why the men, who were believed to be members of the Cartel of the Northeast, launched the attack on Villa Unión. Although cartels have often engaged in fierce battles to control smuggling routes, there are no signs that any rival cartel was targeted in the shootout.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador once again said Sunday he would not accept any intervention from abroad on the issue. “We’re a sovereign, free country,” he said. López Obrador’s popularity is waning amid criticism that he needs to do more to combat the rising violence in Mexico. Since coming into the office, López Obrador has pushed a less confrontational approach to combat cartels by trying to emphasize the cause of the violence, such as unemployment.