In Matamoros, was it mistaken I.D., or were Americans specially targeted?

In Matamoros, the four kidnapped Americans taken by cartel henchmen were rescued, but horrifically enough, two were murdered, victims in Mexico's vicious cartel war brought on by Joe Biden's open border.

News reports, citing an anonymous U.S. official, say that the four, who were black U.S. citizens from South Carolina, were mistaken by the killers aligned with the Gulf Cartel, for rival Haitian drug dealers.

Now this is possible, but it doesn't seem to be a complete story. It implicitly suggests that the killings never would have happened otherwise.

Reading between the lines, this seems to say:

Don't be in Mexico at the wrong place and the wrong time. Watch the neighborhood you are driving in. Don't get lost.

Don't drive while black in Mexico. They might think you're Haitian.

It was all an unfortunate and unlucky accident, entirely preventable, entirely controllable. Otherwise, all's hunky dory; just take the usual precautions and don't go to any donkey shows, as Americans are advised.

Maybe. But there are a few details that suggest otherwise. Based on the cartel behavior in this dreadful incident, it remains possible that the Americans were targeted explicitly for being Americans.

Start with three details:

First, the Americans were driving around lost in their white minivan when they were blocked and then their vehicle was smashed from behind by cartel henchmen, a classic capture-them technique. Did being lost matter? By one report, officials knew that their vehicle with its North Carolina license plates was tracked and followed by cartel "falcons" from the moment they entered Mexico, so the attack wasn't about Americans being lost and winding up in the wrong place. That suggests they were targeted -- which leaves both the mistaken-I.D. theory possible and the targeted-Americans theory possible, but not the idea that this was a crime of chance that came from being lost.

After the vehicle was rammed, a hail of gunfire followed, and two of the Americans were killed, then all four were taken away by cartel kidnappers.

One Mexican columnist, writing in El Universal, argued that kidnappers don't kill their targets first and seek ransoms later, so it probably was happenstance, perhaps with a political motive.

Carlos Seoane argued this, via Google Translate:

From the moment of his capture, you can see (in the video circulating on social networks) an armed command dragging three African-American men down the street, leaving a trail of blood behind them. These three people are thrown like lumps into the back of a pickup truck where their partner, also a black woman, was already waiting for them.
Question: What kidnapper would gun down three of his four hostages to later try to negotiate his release for ransom?

 Perhaps he doesn't remember another well-known kidnapping of Americans, that of Colombia's FARC Marxist narcoterrorists in 2003, who began their extended kidnapping of three Americans after their Cessna aircraft was shot down over the Colombian jungle while on a drug-eradicating mission. In that horror, one American was killed first, execution-style (the link to the New York Times's account, as early reporting, was uncertain about that, but yes, it came out later that it was execution-style), as was one Colombian military national who was with them. The other three were taken away by the narcoguerrillas, for a five-year ordeal in the jungle until their spectacular 2008 rescue by the Colombian army and American Special Forces. It was described well in their memoir, "Out of Captivity."

Cartels and narcoguerrillas are known allies, learning from one another. They know that killing a couple of hostages first in a kidnapping works wonders at keeping the remainders taken away docile. That's their technique.

Second, it's significant that the cartel henchmen hauled off all four Americans after the assault, instead of left them splattered in the street, as is the practice for rival drug gang shootouts. Why would they haul off the bodies of the dead Americans? Quite likely because they wanted a ransom for their return. The families grieving might very well pay it. South Carolina is not that far from Mexico (and not that they would care), but they could have insisted that the family come to Matamoros and leave them a ransom. They wouldn't have much use for the bodies otherwise. Note that they left the body of a third victim, a young Mexican mother, who was a bystander, in a pool of blood behind. She probably wouldn't be much good for a ransom like the rich gringos coming into the country for cosmetic surgery would. This is their inhuman logic.

Third, the four Americans, two alive, two dead (imagine the impact of that on the living Americans) were all bounced from stash house to stash house over five days, in a move to elude capture. That's a classic "express kidnapping" technique, described well in Jonathan Jakubovicz's award-winning film "Secuestro Express" about a horrific express kidnapping ordeal of two young people in Venezuela. The dirtbags who dragged the Americans from stash house to stash house knew exactly how this was done, and had their network of stash houses all ready to go for the heist.

Maybe the Mexican cartel thugs did this spontaneously as they discovered after the attack that their kidnappees weren't Haitian drug dealers (why would they kidnap often-destitute Haitians anyway for ransom anyway?) but it would have taken some impressive improvising to have launched this operation immediately after a mistaken-I.D. discovery, a full shift of organizational mission, done on the fly, to get that done. Perhaps cartels have that kind of organizational mojo, but the odds for error on this are huge.

It seems at least as likely that the cartel targeted the victims because they were American, because the cartels want to challenge the Mexican government, which is now dealing with fallout from this from multiple directions. They've got Sen. Lindsey Graham irresponsibly calling for the assembly of an invasion of Mexico force as if the U.S. were somehow "good" at winning wars like this one. They've also got angry Mexican nationals who point out that the Mexican cops rescue kidnapping victims when they want to -- and they ignore the thousands of Mexican kidnapping victims who remain missing. 

According to a report that ran in El Universal, through Google Translate:

Matamoros, Tamps.— Geovanni Barrios Moreno, from the Tamaulipas Justice Collective, and Delia Quiroa, from Madres Buscadoras 10 de Marzo, applaud the effectiveness of the operation to locate four Americans who were deprived of their liberty in Matamoros, but express their annoyance that the authorities do not do the same job to find the 110,000 disappeared in Mexico, 12,000 of them in this entity.
Both activists say they are surprised because in less than 24 hours authorities from the three levels of government mounted a search operation, security personnel were deployed and the missing Americans were located, something that has never been done by Roberto, Delia's brother. , or by Geovanni, son of Barrios Moreno.
Geovanni Barrios said that on behalf of his son, he will file a criminal complaint against Irving Barrios Mojica, Attorney General of Tamaulipas; Jorge Macías, state commissioner for the search for persons; the prosecutor Elizabeth Almanza, and Lorena Perales, legal advisor for attention to victims, for non-compliance in the investigations.
The lawyer and father of the Reynosa family has been looking for his son for 14 years, who was taken away and to date there are no indications of his whereabouts.

In addition, there's the economic health of the border. The Matamoros kidnapping got a lot of attention in the states -- from the kind of people who don't read State Department warnings to stay out Mexico. At least some are paying attention to this one -- and staying out according to reports in the Mexican press (reports here suggest otherwise, but this is the perception in Mexico). That will be a body blow to the northern Mexican economy. People who lose their livelihoods aren't going to be happy with the government.

 That's a lot of trouble for Mexico's government, which is already being challenged by the cartels for dominance and wanted to get this Americans-kidnapped issue over with as soon as possible. Reports state that the Mexicans did it all by themselves without the aid of the FBI, which offered help.

If the cartels targeted the victims because they are Americans, the implication is that they will target them again, trying harder the second time. Black-Americans, who stand out in a crowd in many parts of Mexico, may be particularly vulnerable.

Facts are obviously still emerging from this and new ones may shift the story, but it's indisputable that this incident created a lot of trouble for the Mexican government, and opened the path to lucrative new opportunities for ransom cash, which the cartels will learn from and perfect.

What it means is that Mexico is more dangerous than ever, both for Americans and Mexicans, because the cartels are getting very bold now, kidnapping Americans in broad daylight and trying to gaslight that it's all about being in the wrong place and the wrong time, to keep that potential victim stream coming. They're feeling mighty powerful these days, what with all their "success" at collecting migrant fees from the open border as Joe Biden happily admits all migrant comers, and they are using it to do the violent things they do.

That's Joe Biden's open border in action, a horrific new risk to Americans who dare enter Mexico.

Image: Screen shot from CBS 8 San Diego video, via YouTube

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