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World & Nation

Mexico threatens legal action over deaths of seven citizens in El Paso massacre

Juarez, Mexico
A woman sits next to a sign with a message that reads: “No More Guns! Make Love,” in Juarez, Mexico, Saturday where people gathered for a vigil for the three Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting.
(Christian Chavez / Associated Press)

The shaded bus stop near the Paso del Norte bridge offers daily transport across the border to various sites in El Paso, including downtown, the airport, the bus station — and the Cielo Vista Mall.

That shopping center earned national notoriety on Saturday when a gunman — apparently motivated by hate of Latino immigrants — shot 20 dead people at the Walmart next door to the mall.

Among the dead were seven Mexican nationals, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said. And more than five Mexican citizens were injured.

Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico would contemplate legal action against whoever sold the gun that was used, and would also consider filing terrorism charges against anyone implicated in the shooting. Those responsible could face extradition to Mexico, he said.

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In addition, he called on Washington “to take a clear and forceful position against hate crimes.”

“Mexico expresses its deepest rejection and condemnation towards this barbaric act where innocent Mexicans lost their lives,” Marcelo Ebrard said in a video posted on Twitter.

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Some noted with irony that El Paso is generally viewed as a low-crime safe haven compared with its Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juarez, which has long been plagued by cartel wars — and became infamous for mostly unsolved murders of women and images of gang victims’ remains hung from bridges. Many Juarez residents with means have relocated to El Paso and purchased homes there.

But both El Paso and Juarez residents interviewed here seemed to suggest that Saturday’s carnage would not change their travel routines.

“I think it was something unusual, an exception, what happened in El Paso,” said Maria Jesus Felix, 65, who was among the steady stream of pedestrians and motorists crossing the Paso del Norte bridge to El Paso. “But still, one has to be aware, to take precautions. … I just hope they don’t increase security now and make it harder to cross.”

Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people from Juarez head across the international boundary daily to shop, run errands, and meet friends in El Paso, a tradition shared in border towns from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. The movement of people also flows the other way.

Border towns like El Paso-Juarez, home to some 2 million people, are sometimes best viewed as single metropolitan areas, sharing common populations, cultures and language — mostly Spanish.

A bus ticket from the international bridge in Juarez to the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso costs $10. It’s a popular trip.

“I won’t stop going to Walmart,” vowed Carmen Luna Perez, 63, who carried a cloth Walmart bag as she waited to board a bus to El Paso, just half a mile away on the bridge. “That’s where I do all my shopping. It has the best bargains,” added Luna Perez, who also hoisted a flower-patterned, purple umbrella to guard against the punishing mid-day sun.

Many seemed inclined to blame President Trump for inflaming passions against immigrants and Mexicans in particular. Trump is remembered negatively in Mexico for kicking off his presidential bid denouncing Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists,” adding that some “good people” were among them. His repeated threats to shut the border have enhanced his image here as a serial basher of Mexico and of Mexicans.

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“A lot of people think it was Trump who incited all this,” said Jesus Perez, 47, a maintenance man at the bus stop. “He’s saying all this stuff to win votes, but it drives some people to do crazy things.”

Angel Carrillo, 25, agreed.

“If your president says that immigrants are garbage of course some people will believe that,” said Carrillo, who works in one of this city’s many export-oriented factories — mostly low-wage establishments geared toward the U.S. market — and was returning from a shopping trip in El Paso. “They will act on his views.”

Added Stefany Sanchez, an El Paso high school student who came to Juarez for a party: “It was a racist attack against Hispanics, without doubt, by people who support Trump.”

Still, life appeared normal here in Ciudad Juarez a day after the shooting.

Authorities had not officially named the slain Mexican citizens, and some were seeking missing loved ones in social media posts.

But family members here identified one victim as a Juarez resident, Elsa Mendoza Marquez, 57, an elementary school teacher and mother of two adult children. She had crossed the border on Saturday and entered the Walmart while family members remained outside the store, according to social media and press accounts.

“I bid farewell to my companion, the most marvelous of women, a person full of light who will continue illuminating our way for the rest of our lives,” her husband said in a Facebook posting. “We are going to miss you, love.”

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Accompanying the post was a photo of the middle-aged couple smiling into the camera, a glass of red wine in the foreground.

No one appeared to be home Sunday at the family’s single-story residence along a busy street in a working-class neighborhood. Security bars covered the home’s windows, as is the norm here.

The Mexican foreign ministry said that a father and his daughter, 10, both from the northern Mexican city of Chihuahua, were among those injured in the attack and remained hospitalized in El Paso.

Late Saturday, some residents here, mostly young men and women, held an impromptu candlelight vigil along the border, close to the spot where Pope Francis celebrated an outdoor Mass in 2016, hailing the role of immigrants in global society.

This time, a young woman held a poster demanding, in English: “No More Guns!”

Special correspondent Gabriela Minjares in Ciudad Juarez and Cecilia Sanchez of The Times Mexico City bureau contributed to this story.


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