Mexico to pursue legal action after seven citizens killed in El Paso shooting

David Agren in Mexico City
Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Mexico has promised to explore pursuing terrorism charges in the US legal system over the shooting in El Paso, Texas, which claimed the lives of seven Mexican citizens and left seven more injured.

The Mexican foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, also said on Sunday that Mexico would try to take legal action against the person or firm who sold the assault weapon used in Saturday’s killings. The country will also pursue the possibility of extraditing the suspect to Mexico, Ebrard said.

“We consider this an act of terrorism against the Mexican American community and Mexican nationals in the United States,” Ebrard told reporters. “Mexico is outraged. But we aren’t proposing to meet hate with hate. We will act with reason and according to the law and with firmness.”

A 21-year-old man is suspected of opening fire in a Walmart store in the US border city on Saturday, killing at least 20 people. Police in El Paso are examining a hate-riddled message on the website 8chan, posted around 20 minutes before Saturday’s attack, that stated: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Related: 'He came to kill Hispanics': peaceful city of El Paso left wounded by possible hate crime

El Paso is located on the US-Mexico border, opposite the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez. Six of the victims in El Paso were Mexicans and another seven Mexicans were injured, including, Gloria Irma Márquez, a schoolteacher from Ciudad Juárez who crossed the border to shop on Saturday and was killed in the gunfire, according to the newspaper Reforma.

Mario de Alba, 45, travelled from Chihuahua state to shop in El Paso. He was shot in the back, according to the Associated Press. His wife, Olivia Mariscal, and 10-year-old daughter Erika were also wounded, but are recovering, according to relatives.

The shooting in El Paso was just one of two to rock the United States over the weekend. A gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Sunday morning, killing at least nine people.

The spate of weekend shootings in the United States has caused indignation in Mexico – parts of which the US government warns citizens to avoid due to drug cartel violence.

People gather in Juárez, Mexico, on Saturday, in a vigil for the Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting. Photograph: Christian Chavez/AP

But the shootout also triggered some uncomfortable self-reflection. It comes as Mexico endures waves of violence, including its own murder rate reaching record highs and frequent shootouts which claim multiple victims, but which generate little outrage outside the affected areas or get lost in a crowded news cycle.

It also comes as Mexico cracks down on Central American migrants trying to transit the country on the way to the US border – even as it doggedly defends the rights of its own citizens living in the United States.

“We’ve told ourselves that story for decades: we’re the victims in this [US-Mexico] relationship. And, in many ways, we have been,” said Carlos Bravo Regidor, a journalism professor in Mexico City.

“With this new policy toward [migrating] Central Americans, the tables have turned and now Mexicans are the Americans to Central Americans.”

The El Paso shootout prompted rare terse words on the US situation from Mexico’s foreign policy officials.

“The intentionality of the attack against the Mexicans and the Latino community in El Paso is frightening. NO to hate speech. NO to xenophobic discourse,” tweeted Martha Bárcena, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington.

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly called “Amlo”, has pushed for action on the flow of US guns into Mexico, which inevitably end up in the hands of cartel thugs. But Amlo has preferred not provoke Trump, even as Trump has badmouthed Mexico ahead of his re-election campaign and threatened Mexico with tariffs if migration through Mexico was not stopped.

“We don’t want to interfere in the affairs of other countries. We’re going to continue sticking to the principles of non-intervention,” Amlo told an audience on Sunday.

“Hugs, not bullets. That’s our posture,” he added, repeating a campaign slogan from his successful 2018 presidential campaign.