At least 71 people have disappeared this year on a highway between Mexico’s industrial center of Monterrey and the border town of Nuevo Laredo, authorities said on Wednesday.
Earlier estimates from relatives of the victims – at least half a dozen of whom are U.S. residents – had placed the number of missing so far this year at around 50.
Mexico’s National Research Commission chief Karla Quintana said most of those missing are men who drove trucks or taxis on a road that local media have dubbed “the highway of death. “.
Quintana said investigations are focused on a point near the highway entrance to Nuevo Laredo, which has long been dominated by the Northeast drug cartel. Quintana said the disappearances could be linked to territory battles between the Jalisco and Northeast cartels.
But among the missing are also women, children and men driving private cars.
The FBI office in San Antonio, Texas, issued a bulletin seeking information on the disappearance of Laredo, Texas woman Gladys Perez Sánchez and her 16-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, who were seen for the last time They left on the highway on June 13th. They had visited relatives in Sabinas Hidalgo, a town on the freeway, and were driving back to Texas in their car when they disappeared.
In recent months, activists say half a dozen men have reappeared alive and badly beaten after being kidnapped on the highway, and all they will say is gunmen forced them to stop on the highway and took their vehicles.
Despite alerts from relatives of the missing, the government of the state of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located, did not warn people against traveling on the highway until almost a month later, on June 23. . Authorities have since stepped up police and security on the highway. , and search for the missing.
The disappearances and shooting in June of 15 apparently innocent bystanders in the border town of Reynosa, suggests that Mexico is returning to the dark days of the 2006-2012 war on drugs, when gunmen of cartels often targeted the general public as well. than each other.
“It’s no longer between the cartels; they attack the public, ”said activist Angelica Orozco.
Given the tendency of cartels in the region to cremate the bodies of their victims, it is not certain that if those who disappeared on the highway are dead, their bodies can one day be found.
Quintana revealed on Wednesday that at a point further east along the border, authorities have excavated half a ton of burnt bone fragments, apparently human, since the site was discovered in 2017. Quintana described the bone dump at a location near the border town of Matamoros as a “place of extermination”.
The total number of people missing in Mexico since 2006 and never found stands at nearly 87,855.
In the early 2000s, officials often repeated an old belief that drug cartels were only killing each other, not innocent civilians, a belief that apparently is not completely dead.
Assistant Home Secretary Alejandro Encinas said on Wednesday that nearly 80% of current killings “are associated with criminal activity”.