Protest leads to Gateway International bridge closure

Courtesy photo

U.S. officials shut down vehicle traffic at the Gateway International Bridge overnight in response to a protest overnight on Tuesday.

Officials and workers who cross into Matamoros daily said it began around the same time that local cartel members put out a call ordering Matamoros residents inside, warning of a “large-scale conflict.”

Photos posted on social media beginning around 10 p.m. on Tuesday showed taxis blockading entrances to international bridges across Matamoros. Buses also appear to have been used to block larger roadways.

Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda wrote in a statement, “The Brownsville Police Department is aware of the situation and continues to collaborate with Federal and State agencies on this matter. The safety of our city and its citizens is always our primary concern. At this time, we will continue to monitor any activity on the border and remain prepared for any situation that may arise.”

Unconfirmed information given to a U.S. official suggested that the local faction of the Cartel del Golfo (CDG) began the blockade after Tamaulipas Governor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca ordered Mexico’s drug task force to crack down on cartel violence in Matamoros, where seven bodies have been found in the river in recent weeks.

Multiple murders have been reported by Matamoros-based media in the same time frame. One of those involved the violent death of Lizbeth Flores, a 23-year-old Brownsville woman who crossed into the city on Aug. 9 and was found dead, stripped naked, and with all of her teeth pulled out in a lot near a public library two days later.

Pedestrian traffic at the Gateway International Bridge was open on Wednesday morning. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed in a statement that vehicle and commercial traffic had been paused since 2:20 a.m. on Wednesday in response to the protest.

A group of workers who normally cross daily reported that they chose not to cross into Matamoros on Wednesday morning in anticipation of violence. These workers also confirmed that they received word to stay inside and that the cartel had warned residents to shut everything down.

The U.S. Embassy in Matamoros did not respond to a request for information regarding the security situation across the river.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com