Mexican officials denounced the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, as “unacceptable” and said Sunday that they would pursue legal action to protect the Mexican and Mexican American communities in the United States.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said seven Mexicans were among the 20 killed in the attack Saturday in the border city, and seven more were wounded.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the country would take action under international law.
“Mexico declares its profound rejection and complete condemnation of this barbaric act, in which innocent Mexican men and women lost their lives,” Ebrard said in a recorded message on his Twitter feed.
The foreign minister said his government’s first priority was to help the victims, and the second to pursue legal action to ensure that “conditions are in place to protect the Mexican American community, and Mexican men and women in the United States. What has happened is unacceptable.”
He said details of the legal action would be laid out in a news conference later Sunday.
The remarks represented a toughening of Mexico’s official reaction to the shootings. On Saturday, López Obrador appeared to play down any U.S. government responsibility for the violence, saying the attack was “a product of [societal] discomposition, of problems certain people have. It’s not a generalized issue.”
But there were increasing indications that the shooting was aimed at Mexicans. Investigators are studying a manifesto that they believe the suspect posted online before the attack, officials said; it includes screeds against immigrants.
“The intentionality of the attack against the Mexicans and the Latino community in El Paso is frightening,” Mexico’s ambassador to Washington, Martha Bárcena, wrote on Twitter. “NO to hate speech. NO to xenophobic discourse.”
López Obrador, who built his political career as a leftist, has surprised many Mexicans by agreeing to President Donald Trump’s demands in recent months for a crackdown on Central American migrants crossing Mexico en route to the U.S. border.
But López Obrador is a longtime defender of Mexican immigrants in the United States. In the past few years, he has made numerous trips to U.S. cities to speak to Mexican communities. In 2017, a year before his election, he published a book of his speeches and proposals to defend Mexican migrants called “Listen Up, Trump.”
The shooting rampage at a shopping center on Saturday, believed to have been carried out by a lone gunman, left 20 dead and dozens wounded. Shock at the attack reverberated through Ciudad Juarez, across the river from El Paso. Many residents of the Mexican city routinely cross the border to shop or visit family and friends in Texas.
On Sunday, like most days, there were long lines of cars waiting to head into the United States. But some drivers told Mexican reporters that they were nervous about their safety on the U.S. side – an ironic sentiment given that, unlike El Paso, Juarez is very violent, with more than 800 homicides recorded from January to mid-July.
On Saturday night, dozens of Juarez residents gathered for a candlelight vigil near the border to show solidarity with the people of El Paso.
“We all cross over there sometimes, we all have family there,” Idhalí López, one of the participants, told the newspaper Diario de Juarez. “There are people here who study there and people who work there . . . we have to show peace, we have to show love, and this is our small contribution.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Mary Beth Sheridan