Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mexico’s missing: collateral damage of narco-violence

MEXICO CITY — The Globe and Mail

They are ordinary, middle-class Mexicans – computer technicians, police officers and engineers – who went to work one day and never came home. They are Mexico’s missing – and unlike many of the 50,000 killed in the country’s drug wars, they have no direct links to organized crime, drug traffickers or their internecine rivalries. They are not involved in the drug trade but have become caught up in the country’s narco-violence. Their bodies are seldom recovered, adding to the devastation and sense of impotence family members feel.
Mexico’s disappeared are an open wound in a society already numbed by the grisly violence of the cartels – the decapitations, bodies found in vats of acid, the strangulations – and the psychological terror they wage. The country’s National Human Rights Commission estimates the number of disappeared at 5,300 while human-rights groups say it is as high as 12,000. Authorities have been reluctant to solve the crimes, or even register the disappearances, even as hundreds of bodies have been found in mass graves, some hacked to pieces. Family members usually don’t know the motive for the crime, and in many cases don’t even receive ransom demands from drug cartels.
Many of the victims disappear in the northern states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, along the U.S. border, where the drug cartels are most active and local authorities are often complicit in their activities. Family members themselves are left to take up the cause, until they are warned away by anonymous death threats.
“They never appear again, either alive or dead,” said Yolanda Moran, spokesperson of the Working Group of Forced Disappearances in Coahuila state (FUNDEC), an advocacy group that works with Amnesty International. “They are the collateral damage in the war on drugs. But they are our loved ones.”
Family members cling to the belief that the disappeared are still alive. They cannot bear to sign death certificates, collect insurance money or close bank accounts. And so they live in a terrible state of limbo. They gathered in May at a conference in Mexico City organized by FUNDEC to highlight their plight and seek solace from others living a similar torment.
President Felipe Calderon, who deployed the military to fight the drug cartels in 2006, unleashing the current narco-violence, has acknowledged the problem and passed a law this spring to protect the rights of crime victims. The government has agreed to set up a database to record cases of disappeared persons and compensate relatives of those who have been killed, forcibly disappeared or been the target of human-rights abuses by security forces. The law also requires authorities to identify the remains of victims and to locate those who may still be alive.
“We have laid the groundwork for strengthening our judicial institutions and building a country where the rule of law is adhered to by all levels of government,” said Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “But this is going to take a long time. It is a long process.”

Altered lives
The most difficult thing for Monica Heredia Gutierrez is trying to explain to her five-year-old son what happened to his father. Filiberto Guzman Morales, 47, was last seen on Dec. 15, 2009. He had been hired by a telecommunications outsourcing firm on behalf of Nokia to install a cellphone network in Nuevo Laredo, a city just across the border from Laredo, Texas.
His wife was fearful: The city is known as a lucrative drug-smuggling corridor, where Los Zetas, the country’s best armed, most violent and highly organized drug cartel has its base. But the family needed the money. Mr. Guzman promised that while away from home he would stay in constant touch with his wife, so when Ms. Heredia didn’t hear from him on Dec. 16, she began to worry.
The company called her the next day, saying her husband and another engineer had gone missing. Their cars were still in the driveway of the house they had rented, the company reported, but their computers had been taken. She flew from her home in Mexico City to launch a formal complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Nuevo Laredo. Nokia provided her with a lawyer, but says it is up to the police to resolve the case; to date, they have not done so.
Ms. Heredia believes her husband was kidnapped by Los Zetas. His engineering skills make him a high-value target. (Last year, Mexico’s military found secret telecommunications networks across the northeast controlled by drug traffickers, installed to co-ordinate drug shipments and orchestrate attacks.) Ms. Heredia became suspicious after discovering that the owner of the rental property had ties to drug traffickers.
The disappearance has altered the family’s lives in every way. Ms. Heredia cannot access her husband’s bank account, since it was only in his name, and she has had to move in with her mother and sister. Most of all, though, she grieves for her lost future. “It’s like my heart has been cut in half,” she says. “My son says, ‘Daddy is lost because he cannot find his way home.’ And I don’t know what to tell him.”
Police complicity?
Juan Hernandez, a tall, slim man, joined Mexico’s federal police force when he was just 19. An excellent shot, he soon became a third-class officer. His mother, Patricia Manzanares remembers his words: “‘Mama,’ he told me, ‘I am prepared to die for my job. You will never lack for anything because I will be part of the police family and they will protect you.’
“His dream was to build me a house and to marry his girlfriend,” says Ms. Manzanares, who lives in Gustavo A. Madero, a municipality of Mexico City.
In 2011, his second year on the force, Mr. Hernandez was sent to San Nicolas de los Garza, in Monterrey, an area embroiled in a brutal wave of violence as Los Zetas fought rival cartels for control of the smuggling corridor. Mr. Hernandez was last seen late on Feb. 20 inside the 88 Inn, the hotel where the police were staying. The next day he didn’t report to work. Instead of sending out a battalion of officers to look for him, his commander simply listed him as missing.
When Ms. Manzanares, 44, launched her own complaint with the state prosecutor’s office, his police commander and other senior officers gave conflicting versions of events. One officer said her son had last been seen leaving the hotel to recharge his telephone at a small shop two doors away. Another said he’d been spotted at a popular police bar, Los Rieles.
Said Ms. Manzanares: “How could he disappear inside a well-guarded police hotel?” Her theory is that the police commander was complicit in the disappearance, hence the reluctance to investigate the case. A few months later, Ms. Manzanares received a call from the commander asking her to identify her son’s remains.
Police showed her a cellphone video of two masked members of Los Zetas beheading two victims, sawing off their heads with a machete. “The police said, ‘This is your son, take into consideration that when heads are cut off, they become swollen in size,’ “ she recalls, weeping at the memory. “They wanted it to be my son so we could conclude the case. But it wasn’t him. A mother can always recognize her own son.”
Links to Los Zetas
Jose Antonio Robledo Fernandez studied civil engineering and his dream was to move to Vancouver, where he had studied English in high school as an exchange student. He was grateful to get a well-paying job as a supervisor at ICA Fluor Daniel, a construction conglomerate.
In 2009, the 32-year-old was sent north to Monclova, Coahuila, a border state where Los Zetas operate, to oversee a project building furnaces for Altos Hornos de Mexico S.A. He was last seen alive Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. He had just returned from a day trip to Monterrey and was sitting in his blue Nissan outside a garage, speaking to his girlfriend on his cellphone when several armed men approached him.
Terrified, Mr. Robledo dropped his cellphone on the floor of his vehicle and his girlfriend could hear the men ordering him out and then, the muffled sounds of them beating Mr. Robledo. His body was never found – nor was his vehicle.
His father, also named Jose Antonio Robledo, travelled to Monclova to investigate for himself. An accountant, he meticulously documented all the evidence he uncovered, including the fact that a driver working for the company was a convicted drug trafficker with links to Los Zetas. The head of the security company contracted by ICA was accused of operating an extortion and kidnapping ring.
The senior Mr. Robledo and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Fernandez Martinez, lobbied federal police to investigate for two years until they took action. The driver and the security head were finally arrested and charged with weapons offences in April, 2011. However, the kidnapping charges never went ahead.
“To lose a son for parents is the worst thing. But to have your son disappear is even more terrible because you always wonder if he is still alive,” says Ms. Fernandez. “This should not happen in Mexico. These are our children.”


  1. The police is in on it they deliver innocent people to the cartels. And sometimes the cartels just pick random people to use as pieces of a puzzle to cause mass panic and fear and keep people from complaining or telling on the cartels activity. Its sad that people have to live their lives as if nothing is going on when they lose a loved one they simply act as if they didn't lose anyone. What's Mexico coming to. The cops the politicians the PRI,PAN all corrupt officials like i said before we're just sheep led into the slaughter. We ignore the violence til its our turn then our loved ones ignore that we're gone. Its a cycle that doesn't seem to end. So how can we have hopeful of anything look what we live daily.

    1. You're right! Here in Nuevo Laredo about 3 years ago City Police Coordinator Mario Guadalupe Mendoza Fuentes. And City Mayor Daniel Peña Trevino (first cousin of z40), now living in Laredo, Texas, and City Mayor Ramon Garza Barrios, also living in Laredo, Texas and owns a custom brokerage business worked openly for the Zetas. Also were very close friends of Antonio (Tono) and Alfonso (El Poton) Peña Arguelles.

    2. How can you say loved ones do nothing when the loved ones of the missing in this article all went to investigate what happened for themselves and launch complaints. I know a complaint is probably not going to do shit but that's all these people can do

  2. I agree. The cartels kidnap and kill innocents to put fear in society.

  3. God give these families peace in their hearts for their missing loved ones. I pray they are in His loving arms, away from the treachery. God please save Mexico...

  4. As long as Mexico remains what it is then so be it,anything can and does happen TO GOOD PEOPLE. The allowing of graft,corruption by Mexicans as part of their culture means that this is and will always be Mexico, or any other country with like values.

  5. Here is what the article should have said: "They are ordinary, middle-class Mexicans – computer technicians, police officers and engineers – who went to work one day for one of the warring cartels and never came home." There are no innocents in Mexico - everyone is tainted to some degree with the narco paint. A corrupt society that deserves its fate.

    1. No man,, We are just regular people who has been betrayed by a fail goverment and is masacred by mass maniac murders for money and power.

    2. A corrupt mexican society? Can you explain to us how a non-US citizen got elected president of the great old USA? How can you say that now that the mexican government put tne mexican armed forces on the streets to fight the drug cartels, and the American drug addicts can not get what their noses and veins need daily and have started to use some other shit like bath salts to get high, and have started to eat each other alive? Now are we the corrupt society? How can you say that now that the american young people are getting less drugs and living a healthier life? And we mexican people are paying you well-being with our own blood?

    3. You are an idiot. An absolute moron.

    4. Seriously ignorant comment. I have dozens of middle class Mexican friends and none are in any way involved with narcos and are disgusted by what is happening. You can't just read articles about what is happening in a country of 113 million people and make the assumption that the whole society is in on it...

  6. We all know whos responsiple for kidnapping and extortion!!

  7. Mexico has turned out to be a stage 4 cancer, to the point of no return. When is the united nations going to step in???

  8. Mexico the way it is now is a tremendous security risk to the US, the UN is a good idea as Mexico is not too keen on US intervention because of the history of the US their in the past. To the person saying the US is corrupt too, give me a friggin break. You can google any corruption index and see where both countries stand. Also the two wrongs don't make a right fallacy. For the Mexicans to participate in the drug they are committing felonies against their own people. Don't pass off that responsibility to others because they want the product. That's a copout. Way too many Mexicans readily participate in serious crime. Answer that. By the way for the first time in my life I heard people being killed by gunfire in Cuernavaca by the Marinas. The local army brigade was too corrupt to participate in the Leyva raid. Care to make that comparison with the US army and marines? Damn!

  9. 7:26 looks like Mexico's problems helped you discover the negative lowlife within yourself. is that what you would say to that kid who's father went to work and never came home? I would hope why say it here.


    ...seems like that is the term constantly used to RIGHTLY JUSTIFY EVIL BEHAVIOR...






  11. @12:27 PM Very true, but you tolerated a corrupt government for 60 years. You knew it was corrupt and you said "manana" and you said "ni modo" and you paid the bribes and you put up with it all and when the money got really, really big it fell apart.

    Now you realize none of your public service institutions works. You have no respect for the law. The police do not police, they steal. The judges do not deliver justice, they steal. The politicians just steal and mega-crooks like Carlos Slim buy everyone so they can steal "legally".

    You made it, you have to fix it.

  12. You hide hate behind truth ......I wonder if would you think like that if you were there or were part of that people or if one day you wake up just to find out your father was killed by someone just for pay the protection fee

  13. "7:26 looks like Mexico's problems helped you discover the negative lowlife within yourself. is that what you would say to that kid who's father went to work and never came home? I would hope why say it here."

    What? When his father went to work as a halcon for one of the cartels? When his father went to work as a corrupt cop taking bribes from criminals to look the other way? When his father went to work as a judge taking bribes to let criminals free? When his father went to work as a........... THAT'S THE PROBLEM! Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Right now all of Mexico lives on its fucking knees!

    1. What? When his father went to work as a halcon for one of the cartels? When his father went to work as a corrupt cop taking bribes from criminals to look the other way? When his father went to work as a judge taking bribes to let criminals free? When his father went to work as a........... THAT'S THE PROBLEM! Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Right now all of Mexico lives on its fucking knees!

      Anyone can talk say whats needs to be done .... And if you think that mexico has only bad people you wrong there is good people overthere and thats a fact and they want something better. If you aint gonna feel compasion for those who suffer thats fine but do not show hate for people whos having hard time already .....there is only one God and he loves us all that love for those who suffer and pray for those in need , you never know when you gonna need that

  14. "there is only one God and he loves us all that love for those who suffer and pray for those in need , you never know when you gonna need that"
    Pie in the sky bullshit,this is to do with human matters,not some superbeing made from the minds of men.As for June 4, 2012 10:15 PM comments,he is just telling the truth,and he is being attacked as unfair,for telling the truth.
    Corruption likes a climate,where no one tells the truth,or attacks someone."How dare you say that"It is sad for sure,but it has been allowed to fester and grow for over 100 years and it is the fault of no-one else.It is time to grow up and make radical moves,the people have got to it,which is easier said thatn done.Maybe a good strong man,with a strong backing with the ruthless determination to root the rotten out.
    Who knows now,but the Mexicans on here are more interested in pointing the finger at the US,than being constructive in their own country.

    1. I never ment to atack anyone.

      Just saying there are people suffering looking for a solution to my belive thats not at argue to anyone God is real and is a way to live.

      In God We Trust

  15. Antonio Robledo homestayed with us in Canada while learning English.......He was darling, smart, well mannered,,and an appreciative homestay student. He loved his family and loved the beauty and freedom of Canada. I am so saddened by his disappearance, and the deaths of so many wonderful Mexican people. We all miss you Antonio..... we send our prayers to the Robledo family.

  16. Ok listen,you want change.well waiting is not the if you see someone getting kidnapped are you going to stop and help.probably not,you won't be surprised if nobody gross you either..what you have to do is form paramilitary vigilante groups.hook up with ex military,hook up with victims of cartel crime and and systematically take them out.just like they did in Columbia.the time is now!!!

  17. 2:29 most intelligent people on this site would not even respond to that persons ignorant comment.but I'm glad you made your point.


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