Ballots and Bullets in the Heat of Mexico’s Drug War

6/1/2016 Foreign Policy

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REYNOSA, Mexico — A Mexican Navy helicopter pursues two SUVs carrying armed suspects through the outskirts of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Schools and local businesses are placed on lockdown as marines arrive to secure the area. Finally cornered in a public plaza, the eight suspects abandon their vehicles and take aim at the chopper with automatic weapons. The marines aboard quickly return fire, killing eight gunmen.

Such a dramatic showdown would make headlines almost anywhere else in Mexico, yet in Tamaulipas state, which lies across from southeast Texas on the country’s oil-rich Gulf Coast, it was just another April afternoon. The Tamaulipas Coordination Group, a joint security body composed of local and federal forces, released a single official statement to confirm the incident took place. In recent years, Tamaulipas has earned a bloody reputation as one of Mexico’s deadliest and most politically opaque states, where information regarding law enforcement and military operations is closely guarded and the media is cowed by threats from organized crime.

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