The mayor of the Mexico-U.S. border city Matamoros survived an ambush by gunmen, authorities said Monday, the latest attack in surging violence in northeastern Mexico that has claimed dozens of lives and triggered a wave of kidnappings.
Mayor Leticia Salazar’s convoy of armored SUVs came under fire Sunday night in Matamoros, which faces Brownsville and is the second-most populous municipality in Tamaulipas state.
The convoy made several maneuvers and eventually escaped, city officials said. No one was injured.
Four people were arrested early Monday. Herminio Garza Palacios, a Tamaulipas security official, said the suspects indicated that they had mistaken the mayor’s convoy for one of a rival gang. But the mayor believed she was targeted, city spokeswoman Nora Gonzalez said.
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“She is very upset,” Gonzalez told Milenio TV. “She believes this was directly aimed at her.”
Salazar’s National Action Party demanded that federal officials take over investigation of the ambush from state authorities.
Tamaulipas is one of the most violent states in Mexico. In recent weeks, a vicious battle among drug gangs has erupted, with shootouts, roadblocks and the dumping of bodies. In a one-week period in late February, there were 40 street gunbattles in several Tamaulipas cities.
In the past, the fighting usually took place between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas. But the current wave appears to involve factions within the Gulf organization, battling for control of strategically located Matamoros and the oil-rich southern tier of the state.
Last summer, the federal government, with an eye on anticipated foreign investment in Mexico’s oil industry, sent troops to Tamaulipas in hopes of restoring order. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong acknowledged recently that the security plan had not worked.
“In some places we have made very significant progress and in others, like Matamoros, we have had complications,” he said.
Kidnappings have also been on the rise, with a newspaper editor and several prominent business executives among those abducted. Thirty percent of kidnappings last year took place in Tamaulipas, where slayings soared 88 percent in the same period, according to calculations by the Reforma newspaper.
Authorities in Texas recommended late last month that students avoid Mexico during spring break because of the violence, singling out Tamaulipas as one of the most dangerous areas.