Congressman from Florida calls for action against cartels

One of the American survivors from the kidnapping in Mexico is expected back home Wednesday, according to her mother.

She has been at a Texas hospital. Latavia McGee was not injured.

Her friend, Eric Williams, survived, too, but he was shot in the leg three times.

Two other friends were killed. The group had crossed the border for a medical procedure when United States officials believe a Mexican cartel kidnapped the group after mistaking them for Haitian drug smugglers. So far, one person has been detained in connection with the kidnapping.

The incident has many calling on the White House to take action against cartels south of the border.

The News4JAX I-TEAM spoke with U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, who is calling for the U.S. military to get involved.

Waltz, a Green Beret, isn’t mincing words.

“They have heavy weapons, machine guns, armored vehicles. They control about 30% of Mexico right now and our border, and in fact, are standing up to the entire Mexican army, causing dozens of casualties anytime the Mexican army dares to go into their territory,” Waltz said.

In January, Waltz and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, filed a bill for use of military force against the cartels.

“These cartels have declared war on the United States and the Mexican government, and we need to begin thinking about them more like ISIS and Al Qaeda than we do, like the mafia,” Waltz said. “That doesn’t mean an invasion of Mexico. It means satellites, cyber drones, special operations forces. We need to start going after their money, their networks, their leadership and put them on their back foot instead of what the Biden administration is doing right now, which is basically nothing.”

Waltz said the cartels are also trafficking deadly drugs across the borders.

“The cartels, with the help of Chinese suppliers, are pumping in fentanyl that’s killed over 70,000 Americans just in the last year,” Waltz said. “Again, if Al Qaeda or ISIS who killed 3,000 Americans with airplanes were doing this, we wouldn’t be collecting evidence or trying to arrest them. We would be taking them out using military assets.”

It raises the question: Is it safe to travel to Mexico or other foreign countries?

“So the state department puts out, you know, updates on travel warnings across the country. And, in this case, to this particular area, the State Department said do not travel. That was the warning. So I think there’s a lot of good information there,” said Toni Chrabot, a former FBI agent who now runs Risk Confidence Group. “Certainly, when you do travel, do your own homework.”

Chrabot says travelers need to leave an itinerary with someone else, travel in groups and be aware of their surroundings.

“When you’re traveling, it’s always a good idea to minimize your jewelry, any expensive items, you know, you want to blend in if you’re traveling abroad, you want to blend in,” Chrabot said.

But with violent gangs, sometimes even that isn’t enough to stay safe.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden is in the loop and taking action.

“In the past few months, President Biden signed an executive order giving the Department of Treasury expanded authorities to penalize cartel organizations and those who control or enable them, and we have imposed powerful new sanctions against cartel organizations in recent weeks,” she said in a briefing. “We remain committed to applying the full weight of our efforts and resources to counter them.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.