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Five migrants found with gunshot wounds on banks of Rio Grande

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Five migrants shot dead on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande have been rescued by border police in a brave night flight.

The injured were part of a larger group of 11 migrants who crossed the river near Hidalgo, Texas at 12:40 p.m. Monday.

Officers immediately began providing first aid to the gunshot victims before being transported to a nearby hospital.

Police have launched an investigation, but the circumstances of how and why the migrants were shot remain unclear.

It comes after cartel gangsters were pictured this week looting the banks of the Rio Grande, harassing Border Patrol with assault rifles in hand.

Officials believe the men are involved in human trafficking controlled by the cartels demanding payment from the desperate migrants and using them as mules to transport drugs to the United States.

Texas Department of Safety vehicles lined up on the Texas side of the Rio Grande with Mexico (file photo)

Crossing the border is not only dangerous for the fast-flowing river and the risk of desiccation in the desert, but also because the people transporting the migrants are armed and dangerous.

Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Brian S. Hastings said: “This meeting serves as yet another reminder of the dangers migrants face when putting their well-being in the hands of smugglers who are only interested in making a profit.

“Smugglers routinely place migrants in dangerous situations where they risk drowning, being exposed to the elements and assault.”

It comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with Mexican leaders on Friday to discuss a review of their joint fight against drug cartels.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said Mexico no longer wants helicopter gunships and other weapons to fight drug traffickers, and is urging the United States to invest in regional economic development instead.

Prior to Blinken’s visit, his first visit to Mexico as the top US diplomat, Washington indicated that it was ready to revive a 13-year-old program, the Merida Initiative, which will provide US military firepower, provided technical support and safety training.

“We believe we need an updated view of our bilateral security cooperation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

He said Washington wanted to keep the “significant gains” from the Merida initiative, deepening that collaboration and having an updated approach that takes into account today’s threats.”

The Mexican government goes further, calling for an end to the Merida initiative.

“We don’t want it to go back to the way it was when they brought us a helicopter gunship and a picture was taken of the US ambassador with the president,” Lopez Obrador said in June.

He argues that investing in development projects in the region would help curb not only the drug trade but also migrant flows – another major challenge facing the two countries.

More than 15,000 immigrants, mostly from Haiti, have made their way to Texas, camping mainly on the outskirts of Del Rio, about 350 miles from Hidalgo.

Under the Merida Initiative, the United States has given Mexico approximately $3 billion since 2008 for law enforcement training and equipment such as Black Hawk helicopters.

At the same time, US authorities have focused on helping Mexico arrest drug lords such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and send them to the United States to face trial.

Suspected cartel members armed with AK-47s spotted near US-Mexico border this week

Suspected cartel members armed with AK-47s spotted near US-Mexico border this week

The men have visited the site several times this week as officials believe they are involved in people smuggling between the US and Mexico

The men have visited the site several times this week as officials believe they are involved in people smuggling between the US and Mexico

Blinken, accompanied by US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, will meet with Lopez Obrador and other top Mexican officials, including Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, during his one-day visit.

Mexico will use the talks to push for steps to speed up renditions between the two countries and reduce the flow of weapons from the United States, Ebrard said this week.

In August, Mexico filed an unprecedented lawsuit against major US arms makers in a Boston court over illegal cross-border gun flows that it blames for fueling drug-related violence.

Mexico has been ravaged by cartel-related bloodshed that has killed more than 300,000 people since the government deployed the military in the war on drugs in 2006.

Many experts believe that the militarization strategy has failed because it has caused the cartels to split into smaller, more violent cells, while drugs continue to flood into the United States.

Texas Military Branch Has Stepped Up Its Patrol Efforts On The Troubled Border

The department is committed to combating human trafficking and building fences at the border

Texas Military Branch Has Stepped Up Its Patrol Efforts On The Troubled Border

Cops concentrate their efforts along the Rio Grande, where hundreds cross every day

Cops concentrate their efforts along the Rio Grande, where hundreds cross every day

The new security framework will “focus not only on crime, but also on the root cause of crime,” a senior US government official said.

“We’re going to look at ways we can increase concerted efforts to reduce the demand for narcotics,” he said.

The two countries would continue to prosecute the cartels, including their labs and supply chain, the official said.

But the new strategy would put more emphasis on stopping the flow of firearms and drug money from the United States to Mexico, in order to “deny revenue to these cartels,” he added.

It won’t be easy to forge a new joint strategy, said Michael Shifter, president of the US-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue.

“The Merida Initiative is indeed dead,” he said.

“Mexico is expected to push for significant US aid and investment in the southern part of the country, but given budget pressures and other priorities in Washington, US officials are unlikely to be receptive,” he said.

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