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Mexico’s foreign minister warns of possible legal action

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

EL PASO – Mexico’s foreign minister visited this border city Monday to offer condolences and condemn the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people, including eight Mexican citizens.

Jennifer Valdez returns to Juarez after shopping in El Paso on Monday. Valdez, who lives in El Paso but has family in Juarez, says some Mexicans are thinking twice about crossing the border to shop. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“We consider this to be an act of terror, obviously on U.S. territory, but against Mexican citizens,” Marcelo Ebrard said during a news conference at the Mexican Consulate in El Paso. “We want to express our condolences to El Paso, to the United States and each family” who suffered from the tragedy.

During his stop in El Paso, Ebrard visited six patients from Mexico who remain hospitalized with wounds they suffered when a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a busy Walmart on Saturday morning.

Ebrard said Mexico plans to take legal action for the terrorist attack that killed its citizens and the nation’s attorney general is examining the option of seeking the extradition of the suspected gunman, a 21 year-old man from Dallas.

Following the attack, some Mexicans are “thinking twice” about crossing the border to shop, said Jennifer Valdez as she walked toward the Paso del Norte border crossing into Ciudad Juarez. Valdez lives in El Paso but has relatives in Mexico.

“They’re afraid to because the attack was against us, against Hispanics,” she said.

Valdez’s brother works at the mall adjacent to the Walmart that was the scene of the mass shooting and was there the day of the attack.

“He felt terror because there were so many children there,” Valdez said.

Thousands enter the United States daily through six border crossings in the El Paso area, including the port of entry in New Mexico at Santa Teresa, and are critical to retailers in the border region that includes Las Cruces.

Many shop for items that are cheaper on the U.S. side, including clothes.

“We come to save money, but look what happened. Several people from Juarez died,” said Leticia Vargas, 38, a mother of four who was headed back to Mexico with school backpacks.

Marina de Santiago, an El Paso resident who was shopping with her daughter and four grandchildren, said her sister in Ciudad Juarez is reluctant to cross into El Paso right now.

“She’s too afraid. She asked me, ‘Isn’t that the Walmart where you took me?'”

She said while some Mexicans are scared to come shopping after the shooting rampage, she predicts they will be back.

“We have to get back to normal. We can’t stay locked up in the house,” de Santiago said.

Marcela Orizco and her boyfriend Armando Celis of Albuquerque stop to rest in downtown El Paso on Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

For years, U.S. citizens were too afraid to visit Ciudad Juarez and stayed away because of drug violence in that Mexican border city.

“There’s violence everywhere,” said Clementina Arias, a 41-year old mother from Ciudad Juarez. She was shopping for back-to-school clothes in El Paso for her five children.

“Now you have to be afraid here, too,” she said. “You leave home asking for a blessing.”

Mexico’s foreign minister offered support for victims of the attack as the families on both sides of the border begin to plan 22 funerals.

“Mexico expresses its solidarity with the people of the United States,” said Ebrard, adding, “We are different cultures, but we need to live and respect each other in Mexico and in the United States.”