Fear and panic filled the streets of Reynosa on Sunday night as rival gunmen battled during a three-hour firefight that saw automatic weapons and grenades used. Surprisingly, Mexican authorities were absent for most of the melee.
The opening clashes were reported just before 9 p.m. Sunday, when rival factions of the Gulf Cartel consummated what appeared to be a yet another rift within the criminal organization.
During the protracted gunbattle, dozens of gunmen were killed, but authorities Monday would only confirm the deaths of two bystanders and the injury of a third.
A Tamaulipas law enforcement official, who asked to not be named citing security reasons, confirmed that the death toll was about three dozen, however the exact figures were not known because cartel gunmen picked up their own people’s bodies during the struggle.
In a news release, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office, known as the PGJE, confirmed that the two slain bystanders were a taxi driver and a teenager who was riding a vehicle with his father. The release confirms one person was injured and seven gunmen arrested, and it states that authorities seized 22 vehicles that were used in the melee, but it doesn’t mention any gunmen dying.
The Tamaulipas law enforcement agent called the new release issued by his superiors an insult to common sense.
“There were four trucks filled with bodies that (members of organized crime) picked up,” the official said. “That is not counting the (bodies) that were left behind.”
The news release doesn’t mention a bullet-riddled SUV that was left along Boulevard Hidalgo, one of the city’s main avenues, just south of Vista Hermosa Avenue near the local headquarters of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, known as the PGR. Inside the truck, four bloodied bodies could be seen from a distance hours after sundown Sunday. Just north of that location near the Fiesta Inn Hotel along Boulevard Hidalgo, another bullet-riddled vehicle could be seen with three bodies inside.
Most of the city’s main avenues had been blocked off with hijacked trailers or buses, and road spikes were littered in other areas to stop traffic.
While online the shootout in Reynosa has become common knowledge, mainstream news media have remained mum about it, said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, chair of the Government Department at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
“This has me very worried because this blackout is coming from both sides,” Correa Cabrera said. “Not only are we seeing organized crime shushing the media but now we are seeing the government at all levels put a lid on the media where you now have virtually no mainstream coverage of a battle of this magnitude.”