On social media, calls for help are peppered with emojis of praying hands and tearful faces, all from the desperate parents of 13 migrants who disappeared at the end of September, while they were on the verge. to cross illegally from Mexico to West Texas.
“I’m the wife of one of them and I’m asking for your help,” a recent English Facebook post read, although most of the calls are in Spanish. “Today, it’s been 88 days since I know anything about any of the band members.”
“They were probably the victims of transnational criminal groups and got caught up in a cartel war on the smuggling routes,” said a US federal source who works on border issues and did not want to be identified.
In addition to the cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl they smuggle across the border, the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels – which dominate parts of northern Mexico – have branched out into the smuggling of desperate migrants, according to authorities on both sides of the border.
More than 95,000 people are missing in Mexico, many of whom are victims of cartel violence, according to the country’s National Research Commission.
An expert told reporters in Texas this week that in Chihuahua, where the 13 men are missing, cartels rake in more than $ 30 million a month in human trafficking.
“Mexican cartels have been involved in human trafficking for a long time,” said Robert Almonte, a former El Paso cop and Mexican cartel expert who works as a security consultant. “Now, with the explosion of border crossings, they are more involved than ever. They don’t see these migrants as people. They see them as commodities, like drugs. And if [the trafficked migrants] “Belong” to a rival cartel, they will kill them. “
The missing men, mostly from Chihuahua state, had gone to seek work and a better life in the United States, where many of them have families, according to Facebook posts.
“They just wanted to work and help their family move forward,” said one family member who did not want to be identified. The men were kidnapped by an armed group near Coyame, about 90 kilometers from the Texas border, according to a witness.
Despite a series of intense searches by land and helicopter in the area where the migrants went missing, authorities have so far found no sign of the men, aged 22 to 55.
Now Mexican officials believe they are all dead. According to the Dallas Morning News and Marfa Public Radio, a Mexican security official close to the investigation said authorities were “looking for bodies, or parts thereof, of what was left” in the desert. . The official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, adding: “I can tell you they are not alive.”
“They were all picked up by armed commandos,” the relative, who did not want to be identified, told The Post. “They were surprised at dawn and taken away by the armed group. This is the report of a 14-year-old who accompanied them and managed to escape. He arrived in Chihuahua on September 29 and told the families what had happened to the men.
The boy does not know what happened to them after their arrest by the armed group, the relative said.
Each man paid the cartel-affiliated coyotes between $ 4,000 and $ 7,000, a relative of one of them told The Post. Family members of the men, interviewed by The Post, said they did not know what cartels the group paid to cross Mexico to the US border.
Since then, family members have posted photos of the missing on TikTok and Facebook and have staged protests outside government offices in Chihuahua, urging authorities not to end the search for the men. A hand-made sign at a demonstration on December 15 in Chihuahua read in Spanish: “They are not just 13 years old. There are many more who have disappeared.”
Relatives continue to look for signs that they may all be still alive.
“It’s a burning pain that I can’t control,” Suhey Soto said in a Facebook post last week regarding one of the missing men. “I ask God every day, every moment, to give me a sign, or news. But I have the impression that he cannot hear me.