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The hunt continues in Mexico for the gunmen who kidnapped 4 Americans

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Mexican authorities have found four American kidnapping victims. Two are alive. Two are dead.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Americans were friends who crossed the border to Mexico, where one expected to get cosmetic surgery. Instead, they stumbled into gunfire last week, which the Associated Press described as a drug cartel shootout. Kidnappers hauled the four into a truck. Then, after days of searching, authorities found them in a wooden shack. Mexicans are asking how this happened and also why kidnappings happen so often.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta has been following this story from Mexico City.

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Eyder, any word on the two survivors and on finding the people who did this?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Yeah. Local media are reporting that the two survivors are at a hospital in Brownsville, Texas. Mexican authorities said that the woman was not injured, and the man had an injury to his left leg, which was not life threatening. Mexicans have made only one arrest, a 24-year-old man who authorities say was the lookout at the house where they found the Americans. But yesterday, the president and his security cabinet promised justice. But they also reiterated that they believe that these four Americans were not targeted, but they were just caught in crossfire of warring drug cartels. Essentially, what they said is that the Americans were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MARTÍNEZ: And this happened near the border, so probably not a stretch to think that politics punctuated reaction in Mexico.

PERALTA: Yeah. It's been politicized, but mostly it's revealed a sharp contrast. Tamaulipas is a part of the country where mothers have begged cartels to let them search for their missing children themselves. In Mexico, there are over 100,000 missing people, and most homicides go unsolved. Political analyst Arturo Alvarado says the government pulled out all the stops in this case. In five days, they were able to find the victims, and that simply doesn't happen when Mexicans go missing or when they're killed. Let's listen.

ARTURO ALVARADO: They do have the resources to do this thing. But they don't use them. They don't care about what is happening in the country in these topics.

PERALTA: And he says that that is an awful realization to have about your government.

MARTÍNEZ: I know the State Department has different degrees of travel advisories to pretty much all of Mexico, but, Eyder, what should Americans who may be traveling there need to know about how often Americans get kidnapped there?

PERALTA: Well, they're rare. I mean, in the past, the FBI has documented about a hundred cases every year. But they're treated super seriously. Abelardo Rodriguez Sumano, who teaches international studies at the Iberoamericana University, says it's serious because it touches on a very sensitive issue here. Let's listen.

ABELARDO RODRIGUEZ SUMANO: Because it means that there's a sense of risk in terms of stability of the bilateral relation between the White House and the Mexican government.

PERALTA: And that relationship is paramount. It's not only based on deep cultural ties, but also money - a lot of money. Tesla, for example, just announced a $10 billion plant in neighboring Nuevo Leon. And something like this really shows how perilous Mexico can be. It's also worth noting that it's coming at a time when we're hearing suggestions from Republicans in Congress that the U.S. should take military action against the drug cartels. Mexico, of course, rejects that suggestion. But this - kidnappings don't help its image.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta. Thank you very much.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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