President Trump on Tuesday offered to help Mexico “wage WAR on the drug cartels” after a shootout left at least nine Americans dead.
Initial reports indicated the victims were women and children traveling in at least three cars who may have been targeted by mistake or caught in a crossfire between rival gangs. All the victims were believed to be Mormons with dual American-Mexican citizenship.
A relative of one of the victims said his cousin was on her way to the airport when she was shot and killed in her car along with her four children near La Mora, a decades-old religious settlement about 70 miles south of the Arizona border. Her car had been set on fire with the bodies of the victims inside, according to Agence France-Presse. Two other vehicles, containing the bodies of two more women and two children, were found several hours later.
According to the Arizona Republic, at least a dozen people remain missing.
“A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively.”
Trump, who campaigned on a promise to reduce U.S. foreign military commitments, didn’t specify what kind of help he was contemplating.
There have been more than 250,000 killings in Mexico since 2006, when the Mexican government controversially deployed its army to combat drug trafficking.
“The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump wrote, adding: “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did call Trump later Tuesday. According to the White House, Trump “made clear that the United States condemns these senseless acts of violence that took the lives of nine American citizens and offered Mexico assistance to ensure the perpetrators face justice.”
The two leaders also discussed “ongoing border cooperation and the strong bilateral ties between the United States and Mexico,” the White House added.
López Obrador took office 11 months ago vowing a “fourth transformation” of the country. But he has struggled to curb violent crime.
The Los Angeles Times recently noted that homicides in Mexico are “on track to exceed last year’s record numbers,” while kidnappings are up 9 percent and extortion attempts up 37 percent.
López Obrador has deployed more than 50,000 members of Mexico’s National Guard to help combat crime but has so far resisted the “militarized” approach of his predecessors.
In his first state of the union address in September, López Obrador blamed the violence on a “bad strategy” of previous administrations.
“We still suffer from insecurity and violence,” he said.
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