Mexican Violence Spreading
Mexico's drug war has begun to move across the border, creeping into the United States. Mexico's most powerful drug cartels are fighting territorial battles over the coveted control of the border, spawning a terrorizing wave of violence. The drug cartels are at war.
Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, sister cities that are linked by a bridge across the Rio Grande, are prime drug turf because more people and products move through Laredo than any other inland port in the hemisphere. Forty percent of all U.S. - Mexico trade passes right through. But the heavy traffic has attracted something else: drug cartels in a heated battle for the control of desirable territory.
"It's really scary here right now."
The Kidnapping Epidemic
But, not only fighting is erupting in the streets of Mexico. Mexico's lawlessness - an outbreak of kidnappings for ransom, brutal gunfights among rival drug cartels and escalating violence - has now crossed the border and touched many American families.
There stories are similar. Americans cross the Mexican-American border from Laredo, Texas to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to celebrate birthdays, holidays, or to shop or just to enjoy another culture. But, one by one, these Americans failed to return home.
The families of the missing Americans say they were oblivious to the violence in Mexico until their families were shattered by it. Now, they are paralyzed by fear.
Thirty-one Americans have been reported as kidnapped just across the Mexican border. Seventeen are unaccounted for, 12 have returned and two have been confirmed killed, according to U.S. officials. Simple math draws a scary conclusion: there are more than a dozen Americans somewhere in the Nuevo Laredo area of Mexico - dead or alive.
Drug Cartels At War
One of the most powerful drug cartel, the Gulf Cartel, controls most of the cocaine, marijuana, heroin and synthetic drugs that cross the border through Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo. Many of the leaders of the Gulf Cartel have been killed or are in prison, but they are still fighting for control, threatening those who challenge them. The threats originate from members of the Gulf Cartel, whose leader, Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, is jailed in a Mexican federal prison. Although Mr. Cardenas was arrested in 2003, his followers remain loyal.
The Gulf cartel has a presence in 13 Mexican states and operates with a paramilitary arm, integrated from ex-members of the Mexican armed forces known as the Zetas. They're thought to have likely been responsible for the January 20, 2005 execution of six prison employees near the federal mazimum-security prison at Matamoros. According to officials, six guards were kidnapped after they left work and were found two hours later, hands bound, shot dead and jammed into a van. According to an FBI official, "The cartels have lookouts and safe houses all over Nuevo Laredo, and they're taking out anyone they suspect is working for their rivals. They're not taking any chances. It's really scary here right now."
During January 2005, many horrifying incidents have taken place in Mexico, spreading a wave of fear and terror among Mexican citizens and American tourists alike.
On January 17, the former mayor of Soto la Marina and his two sons were found dead, their bodies dumped alongside a highway.
On January 15, 20 fishermen from the coast a few miles east of Matamoros were kidnapped and beaten by an armed band of suspected traffickers who accused them of stealing a shipment of cocaine. They were freed after a day.
On January 8, Reynosa policeman Alan Gerardo Mata and his uncle were found dead on the highway to Monterrey. A note was pinned on Mata's pants saying the killing was a message to "El Chapo and those who wanted to help him."
On January 7, an armed group entered a downtown hotel two blocks from Matamoros city hall and briefly held 40 guests hostage while they searched for a rival. Some of the guests were beaten.
Also on January 7, the former mayor of the town of Diaz Ordaz disappeared; he hasn't been seen since.
On January 3, the security advisor to the mayor of Reynosa was found dead alongside the highway to Monterrey.
Although the reign of terror permeates life along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, are these drug lords responsible for the kidnappings and death of Americans?
Below are seven pictures of Americans that have gone missing in Mexico. In total, seventeen Americans are missing, but at the request of the families, we are not publishing the names or photos of the other 11 missing.
Gerado Contreras has been missing since May 2, 2004
Brenda Cisneros has been missing since September 18, 2004
Yvette Martinez has been missing from September 18, 2004
Gerado Gonzalez has been missing since December 5, 2004
Samuel Gonzalez has been missing since December 5, 2004
Gilbert Trevino has been missing December 26, 2004
Orlando Velasques has been missing since August 8, 2004