Tension in Reynosa after five days of shootings, attacks on police and security cameras

Reynosa woke up this Monday to the sound of shootings, a constant in the last five days in the border city. In several videos shared on social networks, the noise of projectiles can be heard and the results of the attacks against cameras of the C-5 public surveillance system can be observed. The Tamaulipas security spokesperson has reported “acts of vandalism with cargo transport” against the poles that support the cameras and has recommended “caution” to the population.

The morning riots link to those that occurred throughout the past week in the city and its surroundings. On Friday, criminals attacked state police agents in several parts of the region. In the morning, gunmen shot at a police convoy near an ejido on the road to San Fernando, south of the city. Then, criminals and agents clashed in the Los Arcos neighborhood, according to the Security spokesperson. Hours later, the authorities seized an armored truck belonging to the criminals that had fallen into a ditch. The shootings left several people injured, including a 17-year-old student.

There is no official explanation for the latest wave of violence in the city, only an account of the human and material damage of its consequences. The State Prosecutor’s Office has not given any explanation, nor has the State Government. The security spokesperson, Jorge Cuellar, proudly commented, in his last press conference, on Thursday, that Tamaulipas is the state bordering the United States that registers the least crimes. Cuellar highlighted the decrease in murders and kidnappings in 2023, compared to the previous year.

Outside official channels, some voices are beginning to rise, pointing out how unsustainable the situation is. This is the case of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Tamaulipas, which released a letter this Saturday, denouncing the link between the violence of these days in Reynosa, with the smuggling of fuel from the United States to Mexico, through the Pharr Bridge, the city. Its president, Julio Almanza, said that smuggling “provides significant economic income to criminal groups.”

Fuel pipes cross the Pharr - Reynosa international bridge, in April 2022.
Fuel pipes cross the Pharr – Reynosa international bridge, in April 2022.Michael Gonzalez (Getty Images)

Almanza said this Monday by phone that since the beginning of the year, fuel has been smuggled into Mexico through the Reynosa bridge and not through Matamoros, as was the case until then. The businessman added that each pipe of gasoline or diesel that enters Mexico represents an injection of $1,500 for criminal groups. “We estimate that every year smuggled fuel worth $1.2 billion is smuggled into Mexico,” he argues.

In addition to a million-dollar business, fuel smuggling from the United States to Mexico represents a growing problem for authorities. Late last year, criminals in Matamoros forced drivers of several pipes to dump fuel in a field, apparently because they had not paid the required extortion. The event, recorded on video, illustrates the situation that Almanza denounces: the illegal tax scheme that criminals impose on products that transit the border.

The seriousness of the situation transcends the role of the crime. According to Almanza, smuggling is done on the international bridge itself, not on barges, crossing the Rio Grande. That is to say, the authorities that control the bridge, the National Customs Agency, led by a retired general, are at least aware of the situation. This newspaper has contacted those responsible for institutional communication at the National Customs Agency of Mexico via text message and email to ask about the businessmen’s allegations, but has not received a response.

“The problem,” Almanza defends, “is that fuel import permits were restricted under this Government, which encouraged smuggling. What the Government has to do is open it,” he says. Regarding the shootings and attacks on the C-5 cameras this Monday, the businessman has avoided assessing whether the links with smuggling are direct. ”This whole set of situations is related to this, directly or indirectly,” he argued.

Violence by criminal groups on the Tamaulipas border is common. Different organizations with varying fire and planning capabilities fight for control of irregular economies in towns and cities in a strip of around 400 kilometers. It’s not just the fuel. There are the drugs, methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, etc., that flow in large quantities north. Also the people. The mafias control the journey of tens of thousands of migrants each year, from southern to central Mexico, charging them extortions in the form of transit permits.

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