At least 21 people were killed, including four police officers, during a gun battle between suspected Mexican drug cartel members and security forces near the U.S–Mexico border, it was reported.
The shootout occurred on Nov. 30 in Villa Union in Coahuila state, about an hour from the Texas border.
“These groups won’t be allowed to enter state territory,” the government of Coahuila said in a statement, Fox News reported. The death toll was revised up from 14, according to several news reports early on Dec. 1.
Standing outside the Villa Union mayor’s bullet-riddled offices, Coahuila Gov. Miguel Angel Riquelme told Reuters that the fighting went on for an hour.
“I don’t think that Mexico needs intervention. I think Mexico needs collaboration and cooperation,” Riquelme said.
“We’re convinced that the state has the power to overcome the criminals,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump’s recent statement that he would designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he wouldn’t accept any foreign intervention in Mexico to deal with the violent drug cartels.
There has been criticism over how Lopez Obrador has handled a recent wave of violence in the country, including a cartel shooting that claimed the lives of nine women and children of U.S.–Mexican origin from Mormon communities in early November, and the Mexican armed forces’ release of the captured son of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr is slated to visit Mexico this week to speak about cooperation over security, Reuters reported.
In an interview on Nov. 26, Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly: “I don’t want to say what I’m going to do, but they will be designated.”
He said the United States has suggested to Mexico “to let us go in and clean it out and [the President of Mexico] so far has rejected the offer. But at some point, something has to be done.”
Later that week, Lopez Obrador bristled at Trump’s remarks, saying that “armed foreigners cannot intervene in our territory.”
Trump said that his administration is already in the process of getting the terrorist designation for the cartels.
“I have been working on that for the last 90 days,” Trump said. “You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process.”
The murder rate in Mexico has increased to historically high levels, according to The Associated Press; during the first 10 months of Lopez Obrador’s presidency, the rate has increased 2 percent.
So far this year, federal officials said there have been 29,414 homicides in Mexico; in the year-earlier period, there were 28,869 homicides.
In the interview, Trump declined to say what specific steps he’ll take after formalizing the terrorist group designation.
“I don’t want to say what I am going to do, but they will be designated,” Trump said. “Look, we are losing 100,000 people a year to what is happening and what is coming through from Mexico.”
“They have unlimited money, the people, the cartels … because it is drug money and human trafficking money,” he said.