What we all know concerning the Americans kidnapped in Matamoros, Mexico


Four U.S. residents have been kidnapped by armed males in Mexico on Friday, officers in each international locations stated.

The Americans crossed into Matamoros, a metropolis within the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, from Brownsville, Tex., in a white minivan with North Carolina plates, the FBI stated.

The passengers within the car got here below fireplace quickly after getting into the town. They have been then positioned into one other car and brought away. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated the 4 had “crossed the border to buy medicine in Mexico” after they have been caught in a crossfire “between groups.”

Matamoros is situated on the south financial institution of the Rio Grande, instantly throughout the border from Brownsville, Tex. The 3.1-mile distance between the 2 cities will be crossed in about 17 minutes based on Google Maps.

The FBI, which is investigating the kidnapping alongside Mexican regulation enforcement businesses, is providing a $50,000 reward as authorities search the gunmen’s arrest and the return of the victims.

Here is what we learn about Matamoros and explanation why folks cross the U.S.-Mexico border, together with for well being care.

What is Matamoros identified for?

Every day, tens of 1000’s of individuals both stroll or drive throughout the bridge from Brownsville, Tex., to Matamoros, dwelling to 580,000 folks, for physician’s appointments, commerce or mundane actions corresponding to having a lunch. The glistening inexperienced Rio Grande river snakes between the 2 sister cities.

Officially generally known as “Heroica Matamoros,” the town is situated the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, one of the crucial crime-ridden states in Mexico and one in every of six Mexican states to which the State Department advises Americans in opposition to touring, citing the danger of crime and kidnapping.

“Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments,” the division’s newest journey advisory says.

Tamaulipas is understood for its lengthy historical past of crime and lawlessness, being a fundamental route for migrants headed to the United States, in addition to for the bustling and built-in border life shared by Mexicans and Americans on either side of the border.

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In the previous decade or so, Tamaulipas has grow to be emblematic of Mexico’s drug-related violence and residential to a number of the worst human atrocities within the nation, the place felony teams and drug gangs routinely combat turf wars, terrorize communities and run kidnapping rackets.

Most just lately, the town grew to become identified for its squalid makeshift tent camps the place 1000’s of asylum seekers have been compelled to attend whereas they made their circumstances below former president Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program.

In 2010 and 2011, a collection of migrant massacres within the metropolis of San Fernando, roughly 87 miles south of Matamoros, surprised the nation and the world. In 2010, authorities found the our bodies of 72 migrants from Central America who had been killed by the Zetas, a ruthless group that broke from the Gulf drug cartel within the mid-2000s.

In 2011, gunmen yanked at the very least 193 folks — a few of them Central American migrants — off buses, bludgeoned them to demise and dumped their our bodies in 47 clandestine graves. The two circumstances of mass killings of civilians at distant ranches 90 minutes south of Texas marked a brand new degree of barbarity in Mexico’s U.S.-backed drug conflict.

Matamoros was not spared of this wave of violence. In 2011, 18 members of a household have been taken from three properties within the metropolis on the morning of July 9. While the ladies and kids have been freed days later, the boys have been by no means returned regardless of a number of funds of ransom.

Although the town is at present within the palms of the Gulf Cartel, Mexican authorities have made strong progress in enhancing safety in recent times.

According to official information, the variety of kidnappings and homicides, each domestically and throughout the state, have considerably dropped in recent times. Currently, there are a lot fewer high-profile assaults like Friday’s kidnappings and residents get pleasure from a relative peace.

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Why do Americans cross the border for well being care?

Pharmacies, dentists and optometrists start showing virtually as quickly as you cross the border into northern Mexico. Numbers are tough to return by however Americans usually cross the border for well being care together with beauty surgical procedures, specialists stated.

One of the commonest health-care causes for Americans to cross the border is to go to the dentist, based on teachers learning the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s a very common phenomenon to travel to Reynosa or Matamoros for medicines, or medical procedures, and especially to see dentists because it’s less expensive than in Texas,” stated Nestor Rodriguez, a sociology professor on the University of Texas at Austin. “Some Mexican-Americans may feel more familiar with Mexican doctors rather than with American ones.”

Prescription medicines are far cheaper in Mexico, stated Kathleen Staud, a professor emerita of political science on the University of Texas at El Paso.

For individuals who can’t afford medical insurance coverage — Texas is amongst a handful of states which have refused to increase Medicaid — well being care in Mexico is an reasonably priced choice, stated Staud.

Mexican pharmacies supply some benefits over these within the United States, stated Staud. These embrace an on-site medical physician who can supply a reasonable medical intervention, in Spanish. There is a caveat that folks touring for medicines or care should have time to attend in traces to cross the border.

Another benefit of Mexican pharmacies is that they provide many prescription medicines over-the-counter; meaning sufferers can skip the wait time and and price of a health care provider’s appointment.

“The pharmacy business is a thriving on one on the border,” stated Ricardo Ainslie, a professor of border tradition and historical past on the University of Texas at Austin. “Matamoros is a big destination for health care, and so are towns and cities 50 miles west of Matamoros.”

Medicines for hypertension, diabetes, and antibiotics are amongst those who Americans seek for throughout the border, stated Jose M. Villarreal, a professor of Chicano Latino research at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

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Others may be on the lookout for painkillers corresponding to Oxycotin, stated Ainslie. “People with addiction problems, who don’t have prescriptions or don’t want to be tracked regarding their consumption may travel to Matamoros,” he stated.

Some folks additionally journey to Mexico for surgical procedures. Ainslie stated northern Mexico has a number of respected medical colleges the place folks could journey “to access qualified health care at the fraction of the cost of American health care or surgeries despite it being completely out of pocket.”

What are different causes folks in border cities usually transfer between U.S. and Mexico?

People residing in border cities corresponding to Brownsville, Tex., or Matamoros are sometimes bi-national and for generations have been touring to see household or buddies, or for work and faculty, based on border research specialists.

“There are people who travel regularly from cities in Texas to Reynosa or Matamoros, or other towns in between in order to meet family,” stated Rodriguez. “There are so many families that are divided by the border.”

People residing on the American facet may cross the border for extra “casual reasons,” he stated. Sometimes Rodriguez’s college students cross the border for a superb meal on the Mexican facet.

Similarly, Amelie Ramirez, the director of the Institute of Health Promotion Research in San Antonio, stated Hispanics typically cross the Texas border to buy groceries.

“Since the cartel violence grew in these areas, I would guess the percentage of White Americans traveling to Mexico has dropped due to security fears,” stated Ainslie. “But it still exists, and people regularly travel to Matamoros for all kinds of reasons.”

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the very least 948, 895 folks entered the United States by means of the Brownsville border in January 2023; in January of 2000 this quantity was at the very least 1,809,300.

Kevin Sieff and Leo Sands contributed to this report.

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