Peaceful and quiet much of the time, Mexican border towns can suddenly erupt in violence under cartel provocation. Last month shooting broke out in Matamoros between police and members of the Gulf Cartel. Three of the drug group were killed along with a bystander. Two police were wounded
In a notable irony one of the deceased turned out to be Ariel Trevino, known as El Tigre, who was the cartel chief in the border town of Nuevo Progreso, a safe shopping stop for Americans and Mexicans alike. It’s heavily policed and considered free of violence. Perhaps El Tigre, before his fatal encounter, was a peacemaker among cartel chiefs. It can happen.
Nuevo Progreso stands out among Mexican border towns. It’s meant to allure passersby to its seemingly endless lines of closely packed shops in an arcade protected from the sun. It takes quite a while to navigate al these tempting offerings at rock bottom prices. I seemed to be the only gringo there on a festive Sunday, but you can’t really tell since most of us were pretty white.
First in line of eager sellers:- “Want a dentist!” To be followed by “Want some pills!” Want a hat!” Want a taco!” and as the line trails off and only males seem to linger, “Want a girl!” An interesting question is whether there are as many dentists as girls in the line. Probably a close call.
Nuevo Progresso, to be sure, is a detour from border towns more acclimated to violence. In Hildago on the US. side I drove into private farmland to reach the river. A lean watchful rancher was by the side of the road. Can I get to the Rio this way? I asked. “Depends who you are,” he replied. “I usually shoot people trying to steal on my property.” “Thanks for not shooting,” I said. “But I’m not a thief. I’m a journalist. Let’s talk.”
And that we did for a half hour. Chet Miller has a reputation in these parts. He speaks his mind and then acts on it. And he does shoot, sometimes to the annoyance of local law enforcement for which he has little respect. Given current conditions, he said, “you have to create your own law.”
He would have no hesitation to shoot a cartel member who trespassed on his land. “The cartels are afraid of me.” I couldn’t check this out with a cartel. So, I’ll have to take his word for it. He could be right.
The cartels don’t run into much opposition as they advance on the U.S. Is a lone gunman of uncertain temperament the best we can do? The U.S. Government and its attendant media don’t seem to take the border very seriously like, say, China’s threat to Taiwan. Yet the Chinese are not on our border threatening us. It’s wreckers of Mexico on their way to wrecking the U.S with their poison, more easily done than ever with the arrival of fentanyl, a speck of which can kill. Deaths by overdose are rapidly climbing in the U.S. A psychiatrist says drug abuse is likely when there’s so much available. The cartels see to that.
The only genuine solution is to seal the border with U.S. troops. They can stop the cartels from shooting over the border and crossing it. If necessary, they can pursue them into Mexico in the kind of raid at which the U.S. army is particularly skilled. The aim is not to repeat anything like the all-out war of the 1840’s but to show the cartels there are limits and to reduce their power and influence in Mexico. They have never been tested in this way.
Some border residents say many Mexicans would welcome this intervention given their ravaging by the cartels. Now Americans can come to the aid of both countries.