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Four Americans kidnapped in Mexico, two killed as responsible cartel apologizes

By Brady Campbell, Staff Writer

On March 3, four South Carolinians made the trip down to Mexico, one of which was getting a medical procedure done south of the border. As they made the trip past Texas and into Matamoros, Mexico, none of them were prepared for the horror that would follow. 

Just before noon, the van that they were taking to the procedure was intercepted by five members of the Gulf Cartel, and immediately fired upon. 

As the Americans were dragged into the cartel’s truck and captured, bystander Arely Pablo was struck and killed by a stray bullet in the ambush. U.S. officials believe that the Americans were not the intended targets, and that the cartel made a mistake in thinking they were an enemy. 

“I think that it was more of a wrong place at the wrong time situation for them,” junior broadcasting major Brendan Kaufman said. “It could have been any of those things. It could have been targeted, or it could have been coincidental and these people were unfortunately in the crossfire.” 

Mexican authorities found the victims on the morning of March 7. Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were found dead while Eric James Williams and Latavia McGee were rescued, although Williams was wounded. They were found in a wooden house just outside of Matamoros while the five attackers were arrested. Cheryl Orange, the fifth member on their trip, stayed behind in Texas and contacted police on March 4 when she could not reach them. 

Junior fashion merchandising major Grace Catanese thinks that the quick response by authorities and the fact that they were tourists helped with the rescue of the two survivors. 

“I feel like there are a lot of tourists and it makes it easier to find those who are not familiar with the area. The swift action taken by the authorities also may have saved the two that were still alive,” Catanese said.

Kaufman agrees with this sentiment, saying “I think the reason they got it so efficiently is because they care about stopping the cartel because cartel violence is one of the biggest issues in Mexico.”

The Gulf Cartel took responsibility for the kidnapping and turned over the members that were involved to the authorities. They also left a note stating that the members acted on their own and against the Gulf Cartel. 

Catanese believes that this incident will create some tension between the United States and Mexico. 

“I feel like now Americans are going to be more weary about going on vacation to Mexico. I think that maybe having the governments talking things out can relieve some of the tension but I don’t know if that is a possibility right now,” she added.

Some American leaders were pushing for U.S. military intervention to fight cartels, but Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador does not want any foreign interference in this issue.  

Kaufman does not think the American government will retaliate in any way. 

“I don’t think they are going to do anything drastic because they got it quick and the cartel itself apologized. I feel like that doesn’t happen most of the time and I think the cartel realized they messed up and tried to avoid conflict,” he said.

Over the last few years, disappearances of tourists in Mexico have become an unfortunate occurrence. Certain parts of Mexico have become too dangerous for tourists and this has made more people traveling there concerned. 

When asked if she would travel to Mexico or abroad after this incident, Catanese does not think that this attack will have an effect on other countries. 

“For Mexico, since this is so recent, I would probably be a little bit hesitant about going. I would definitely still travel abroad. It could depend on the area, but I want to visit Europe and while every country has their issues, I don’t think that this incident will make me change my mind about that. For Mexico though, I would wait a few years,” Catanese said.

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