José de Jesús Gómez Córdova He traveled whenever he could from Texas to Guadalajara, Mexico. He visited his mother, whom he has always cared for from a distance. I was taking a flight or driving. At the beginning of January he had a few days off from work and decided to take advantage of them. On January 4, he crossed the border into Tamaulipas and it was the last time they heard from him. They lost track of him when he was driving through the infamous Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway, which has become the most dangerous in that country.
“My brother was bringing a Toyota pickup. His final destination was Guadalajara and before that he was going to go to Monterrey. The last time we had contact with him was when he was at the border, ”said his sister María Lira Córdova, in an interview with Univision Noticias. “At one point he did not answer our messages and his phone sent us to our mailbox,” he laments.
More than five months have passed and the authorities have not resolved anything. Lira Córdova, who lives in Guadalajara, affirms that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took the report of the disappearance and sent them three photographs that confirm her brother crossed into Mexico aboard his wagon. But he told them that there was nothing he could do because he was a Mexican with a permanent residence card.
Gómez Córdova is 45 years old and has lived in North Texas for a long time. He is a computer systems engineer and returned to Mexico two or three times a year to be with his loved ones.
“They have been months of anguish, of helplessness and also of hope, thinking that maybe he can return; you want to continue with that hope ”, says his family member. “The worst part is for my mother, she is going through a very strong depression and must be medicated,” he laments.
The case of Gómez Córdova was one of the first of a worrying wave of disappearances that this year have been registered in a section of 200 kilometers (124 miles), between the border line and Monterrey. Most are men in their 20s and 40s who drove cargo vehicles and SUVs.
The national commissioner for the search for missing persons in Mexico, Karla Quintana, told the digital medium Political Animal since October 2020 at least 70 people are wanted after having gone through that communication channel. On average, seven cases occurred each month.
The United Forces for Our Disappeared in Nuevo León (FUNDENL) organization ensures that only in the segment that passes through that state has it registered 49 incidents since January. “In June we have 10 cases registered, but we know that there are many more in Tamaulipas,” Angélica Orozco, a member of the group, which was founded in 2012 due to the inaction of the state government, told this medium.
Truckers, employees and a family
The areas of greatest risk, Orozco warns, are between kilometers 100 and 26, as well as the towns of Alijadores and Sabinas Hidalgo. From the latter, a mother, a permanent resident of the United States, and his two American sons Heading to Laredo, Texas, on June 13 and since then they have not heard from them.
“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. To kidnap an innocent woman, a housewife, with her two children, that was already something terrible, ”José Israel Pérez, a relative, told Noticieros Televisa Monterrey a few days ago.
The speech of the governor of Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, fueled the indignation of those who are looking for their loved ones. This Tuesday he stated that 17 people had been rescued thanks to the actions of the security forces.
But it was later corrected by its own press office, which indicated in a statement that, in fact, one of those located was found dead and the remaining 16 “returned to their homes gradually without the intervention of an operation by the authorities.” The government indicated that it had 41 investigation folders open in the last 20 months.
For Orozco, from FUNDENL, at this point the governor of New León should report that safety on the highway is already guaranteed. “This shows that the authorities do not have a strategy to face a crisis of disappearances,” criticized the activist.
A video that went viral on social media this week shows that the situation is critical. It was recorded by the driver of a trailer and in this it is observed how people on board two vehicles blocked the way of a family to steal the truck in which they were traveling. “Are you okay?” Asks the trucker. “Thanks god”, he expressed nervous as he approached to help them.
Another recent case happened on June 3. Four workers from the ‘Transportes Orta’ company disappeared on their way from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo. Is about Jesús Ambros Rosas, José Avilor Rosas, Luis Enrique Chagala Macario and Javier Toto Cagal.
On March 28 they lost track of Eulalio Vázquez Rodríguez and his son Daniel Vázquez Rangel, who were traveling in a heavy vehicle. Another missing carrier is Rito Reta González, 51, who passed through that highway on December 10.
Drivers of private travel companies have also been victims. It is the case of José Rigoberto Mata Díaz, who was reported missing on April 23; Y Artemio Moreno Morales, of whom they do not know anything since April 13.
The same luck they had Juan Francisco Peña Córdoba, who on March 13 accompanied his son Francisco Uriel Peña, a permanent resident of the United States, toward the border with Texas. Since then they have not returned home.
“The vast majority are men between 20 and 40 years old, truckers who went with loads to Nuevo León, Uber drivers, four were employees of a security company and two were engineers who were going to provide their services to companies,” said Orozco. “Families report that they lose contact with them, that their phones are turned off. Six of them have returned to their families and say they were held by armed men. They come back beaten. But out of fear they don’t give more information, ”says the activist.
The Nuevo León government claims that most of these incidents have been perpetrated by criminal groups looking for rivals from the state of Jalisco. That region has been contested for several years by cartel gunmen from the Gulf, The Zetas and criminal cells from both. But activists claim that the authorities are repeating the rhetoric that there are settlements between drug traffickers, when the vast majority of the victims are innocent civilians.
Both Nuevo León and Tamaulipas are on the black list of the US State Department. In his most recent travel alert he asks United States citizens do not travel or take extreme precautions in the face of crime levels.
“Be more cautious due to crime and kidnapping. Criminal activity and violence can occur throughout the state. US citizens and legal permanent residents have been victims of kidnapping, ”he warns about Nuevo León.
From the information provided by the State Department, community leaders have drawn up a list of recommendations that they share on social networks, such as not traveling at night on the highway, keeping the satellite locator (GPS) activated, sharing the journey with family members and friends, be in constant communication with a trusted person and never stop on the road.
“Not that something strange is happening on that road. People are disappeared, they are not disappearing, because there is no security on that journey, because criminals can act with impunity and because there is an absence of the State, ”Orozco laments.