REYNOSA, Mexico – With day-to-day life often affected by criminal activities and shootouts sowing fear in certain areas, residents of the Mexican city of Reynosa, which is seeking to clean up its image and regain the public’s trust, strive to find a semblance of normality.
The city “is very dangerous, and not only in this neighborhood. There have been shootouts and we have had to throw ourselves to the ground,” Federico Tovar, a 62-year-old street vendor, told EFE. “When we go out to work, we don’t know if we will return home.”
Tovar lives in the low-income Praderas de Oriente neighborhood. A train crosses this area several times a day, without so much as a small fence to separate the tracks from the houses.
Seconds after turning off the microphone, a hail of gunfire is heard in the distance.
“Those are gunshots, which means that they probably killed someone,” Tovar, who seems more resigned than frightened, said.
Reynosa, located in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, registered 296 homicides in 2017, according to figures provided to EFE by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Although there are cities in Mexico that are even more violent, this border town is living through a difficult period.
At times, Reynosa becomes a war zone, marked by clashes between different criminal organizations – two factions of the Gulf cartel are waging a turf war – or by shootouts between gunmen and federal security forces.
In fact, it is estimated that 90 percent of the violent deaths in Reynosa are the result of these two types of confrontations.
In 2017, 15 police officers and a police commander were killed in the line of duty.
So-called “narco-blockades” are also common here, with criminal organizations blocking roads with heavy vehicles that are set on fire to stop the movement of security forces and create chaotic traffic jams.
According to the latest National Survey of Urban Public Safety, 95.6 percent of Reynosa residents felt unsafe living in their city, the highest percentage for any municipality in Mexico.
Although Reynosa is not always violent, the majority of residents are affected by violence in one way or another, shaping their day-to-day lives.