MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s government said it considers a shooting at a crowded department store in El Paso, Texas that left eight of its citizens dead an “act of terrorism” against Mexicans and hopes it will lead to changes in U.S. gun laws.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard met Monday afternoon with local authorities in El Paso and said Mexico will participate in the investigations and trial there, as well as take legal action against those who sold the gun to the shooter.
“An investigation will be opened for terrorism, because that’s what it was,” Ebrard said at a press conference. “And the extradition request is not off the table.”
Ebrard also met with families of the victims and the injured and promised to speed up the repatriation process for the bodies of the eight Mexican victims.
“We agree that it appears racism and white supremacy are serious problems in the United States,” Ebrard said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador previously said that Mexico will respect the debate that will unfold in the United States following the Saturday attack that killed a total of 22 people, but he believes the discussion could lead to change north of the border.
“There could be a change to their laws because it is stunning what is happening, unfortunate and very powerful,” López Obrador said. “I don’t rule out that they could change their constitution and laws. These are new times; you have to always be adjusting the legal framework to the new reality.”
Many in Mexico were reeling from revelations that the shooting appeared to have been aimed at Hispanics, and Mexicans in particular.
Just minutes before the rampage, U.S. investigators believe the shooter posted a rambling online manifesto in which he railed against a perceived “invasion” of Hispanics coming into the U.S. He then allegedly targeted a shopping area in El Paso that is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans cross the border legally each day to work and shop in the city of 680,000 full-time residents, and El Paso County is more than 80% Latino, according to the latest census data.
The Mexican victims were identified as Sara Esther Regalado of Ciudad Juarez; Adolfo Cerros Hernández of Aguascalientes; Jorge Calvillo García of Torreon, Coahuila; Elsa Mendoza de la Mora of Yepomera, Chihuahua; Gloria Irma Marquez of Ciudad Juarez; María Eugenia Legarreta of the city of Chihuahua; Ivan Filiberto Manzano of Ciudad Juarez; and Juan de Dios Velázquez Chairez of Zacatecas. Other victims may have also been of Mexican descent.
As the news dominated weekend headlines, some in Mexico said the shooting was the result of the simmering resentment that President Donald Trump had stirred early into his presidential campaign when he called Mexicans coming into the U.S. “rapists” and “criminals.” The U.S.-Mexico relationship was only further strained after he took office and vowed to build a border wall and slap tariffs on Mexican imports.
On Sunday, López Obrador chose his words carefully when speaking of the shooting.
“In spite of the pain, the outrage” that Mexicans are feeling, he said, the U.S. is headed toward elections and Mexico doesn’t want to interfere in the “internal affairs” of other countries. He also said the events in Texas reaffirmed his conviction that “social problems shouldn’t be confronted with the use of force and by inciting hate.”
Former President Felipe Calderón said via Twitter that regardless of whether the shooting is a hate crime, Trump “should stop his hate speech. He should stop stigmatizing others.”
Amatza Gutiérrez, a student from the Mexican capital, said the idea of a shooter targeting Mexicans because of their ethnicity gives her goose bumps.
“I don’t understand why anyone would go to that extreme,” the 24-year-old said.
AP writer Christopher Sherman contributed to this report.