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The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Four U.S. citizens kidnapped in Mexico

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Photo provided by Pexels.

By Julian Volk

Four U.S. citizens were kidnapped at the Mexico-U.S. border town of Matamoros on March 3, 2023. Two citizens survived, while the other two sadly died when found.

The four people have been identified as Latavia “Tay” McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, and Eric James Williams. The group reportedly drove into Matamoros on the morning of March 3 for cosmetic surgery for McGee. Upon arrival in the northeastern part of Tamaulipas, the group’s white Chrysler Pacifica was fired on by presumed Mexican gang members. According to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the unidentified gunman stopped and took the group into a different car that fled the scene.

Irving Barrios, the Tamaulipas attorney general, says the ordeal was a misunderstanding. Mexican investigators believe that the Americans were not the target but were mistaken as rival human traffickers by the shooters. 

Reports also say that a Mexican woman, 33-year-old Arely Pablo, was struck and killed during the shooting by a stray bullet fired from the shooter’s car.

The victims were found later in the week on March 7, 2023, in a house just outside of the city of Matamoros, which sits just south of the border from Brownsville, Texas. Three victims were found in the house; the other two were outside. McGee and Williams were found alive inside the house, but Woodard and Brown passed before Mexican investigators had recovered the group.

Another woman who had traveled with the group, Cheryl Orange, remained in Brownsville after she learned she did not have her ID. Orange had made the original call on the morning of March 4 that she was worried about the group as they had not been in contact with them most of March 3 and March 4.

The group traveled to Mexico for McGee’s cosmetic surgery. The other four traveled to support their friend through her surgery and recovery. Many U.S. citizens travel to Mexico for cosmetic surgery due to its much lower prices than the U.S. Cosmetic surgery can be up to 40 percent to 60 percent cheaper if done in Mexico instead of America. The trip to Mexico also allows for more affordable overall health care than in America, allowing American citizens to spend much less on surgery and recovery. 

The group’s route is known as one of the more dangerous for cosmetic surgery trips. The city of Matamoros, where the group was forced from their vehicle, is reportedly riddled with crime and the cartel. However, it has not been reported if the group knew and understood the risks they would take with their route.

According to many travel sites, only two states in Mexico, Campeche, and Yucatan on the Gulf of Mexico, can Americans expect to use “normal precautions” while traveling. 

Many Americans that have traveled to Mexico for cosmetic surgeries attribute the U.S.’s poor health care system as their reasoning. Around 1.2 million Americans travel to Mexico for cosmetic surgery every year. Things like waitlists, difficulty booking appointments, and even feeling rushed with a doctor’s time are some things that are frequently criticized in American healthcare.

A cosmetic surgeon from Cancun, Dr. Nain Maldonado, said during an interview with MSNBC news, “When I talk with my patients coming from the States, they are surprised how the doctors are coming to see them, talking with them, even during the appointments after the surgery or the next day.”

Five alleged Gulf Cartel members have been arrested on charges of aggravated kidnapping and murder concerning the March 3 incident. This happened the day after the Gulf Cartel took responsibility for the abduction. The five men were found tied up next to a truck. A note was found on the windshield, reportedly explaining that the men were the Gulf Cartel members that had committed the kidnapping of the group and murders of Woodard and Brown. 

Mexican authorities also arrested a 24-year-old man at the house where the victims were found. Authorities say he was working as a lookout at the home.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has said, “Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable, no matter where under what circumstances they occur. We’re going to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure that justice is done in this case.”

The FBI urges anyone with information to call its San Antonio office at 210-225-6741.

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