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In the summer ofJessica Molina, the wife of one of the kidnapping victims, traveled to Washington, D. She had been invited by a group that was lobbying against the U. Molina met with the staff of six members of Congress and shared the story of the kidnappings with them. The members followed up with the State Department on the gun sales but not the disappearances.
Clockwise, from top left: Rep. David Cicilline, D-R. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. Norma J. Torres, D-Calif. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. At each office, Molina recounted how, on March 27, she was recuperating from breast cancer surgery at her and her husband's second home in Nuevo Laredo. They had broken the lock on the gate and kicked in her door, leaving a boot print that remains to this day.
Then Molina overheard a soldier say they were in the wrong house. But instead of leaving, the commander demanded their phones. The marines dragged Trejo Garcia screaming, barefoot and almost naked from the room. Out tumbled her blue passport.
And immediately the commander told the others to leave my stuff alone. The soldiers stole the hard drive of her security camera, some money and a few watches. Molina shared that footage with officials in the U. Embassy in Mexico City. E ven if Congress and the State Department had done nothing but consider the evidence they had been handed—the security footage, the international news reports, the U. Not only had a U. Any U. When it comes to money for the Merida Initiative, the secretary of State is supposed to certify to Congress each year that Mexico, as a country, has complied.
Congress built this leverage into the Merida Initiative because members feared opening a spigot of funds to a country whose military had a well-known reputation for extrajudicial murders and kidnappings. With those stipulations attached, the Mexican army, the most powerful branch of the military, had at first hesitated to take U.
But the resource-starved navy was eager to cooperate. It had always competed with the army for funding, said Inigo Guevara, a researcher and author focused on Latin American militaries. The Merida Initiative also promised closer cooperation between the two countries, especially training and intelligence sharing. Inthe U. Department of Defense rotated small groups into Mexico that were skilled in weapons and military operations, known as Mobile Training Teams. Three years later, the U. Marines regularly flew to the Yucatan Peninsula to instruct their counterparts.
As the chosen weapon in the fight against cartels, the marines soon drew interest from U. Two years later, the Wall Street Journal revealed that U. Marshals, supported by the DEA and FBI, regularly dressed in marine uniforms and carried their guns—contrary to Mexican law—as agents hunted wanted criminals in the country.
InMexico created the Special Operations Unit, the small, elite group sent to Nuevo Laredo that locals referred to as special forces. Trained by Northern Command, they were highly skilled, deed to capture the most notorious cartel leaders and molded with U. From the U. To prevent American funds from supporting lawless soldiers, Congress relies on the State Department to identify human rights violations, which could then trigger a cut in funding. But no money was withheld.
In fact, only twice has the U. That came after Mexican army soldiers massacred 22 people in Tlatlaya, a small town southwest of Mexico City. The story received international attention. And the next year, the U.
The State Department process for writing the annual report relies on multiple streams of information: news reports, complaints from nonprofits and classified information. Staffers in Washington then write up the credible s. But seated at the table are also members from the Department of Justice and the Pentagon. This is when the negotiations ensue.
We want to be able to work with these folks. It becomes a mess. But it devoted just two sentences to the events in Nuevo Laredo. It said the U. Under this law, U. I asked the State Department if special forces in Nuevo Laredo had gone through this process, which was highly likely, and the agency refused to answer. But the problem with the Leahy Law is that it screens only for past abuses. It also has flaws. If only a few soldiers in a unit were found to have abused human rights, they can be set aside while the rest of the unit is cleared, allowing funding to proceed.
There should also be higher-level diplomatic pressure. Yet while Molina pleaded for the attention of U. This placed him at odds with the Trump administration, which had no intention of easing pressure on the cartels.
And, of course, on immigration. A midterm election was approaching. Migrants escaping violence in Central America were headed north to the U. His siblings, grandmother and grandfather, and a few close friends sat together and ate cake. There were no candles. Dominguez thought only Jorge should blow them out.
Nearly six months had passed since her son disappeared. Dominguez had grown close to some of the other moms, and she sustained her own pain by supporting them. Some mothers had lost weight, unable to sleep. Relationships ended. Dominguez is not a crier, but she often found herself venting to the woman from the U. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, who offered comfort but little else. She had also met on the international bridge with another FBI agent. That, too, yielded nothing. Yeah, she thought, then show me.
They told her they had important information to share. She flew to the capital and excitedly rode an elevator up the black glass building. At a desk in a small office, an investigator invited her to look at his computer screen, which displayed a map of Nuevo Laredo with small red dots. The dots traveled from their home to the house being renovated on Belisario Dominguez street, to a store where Jorge bought food for his pet rooster, to the hardware store where he had bought tile, then back to Belisario Dominguez. After 9 p. Dominguez knew all this already. It was of no help, and she left the office for her hotel room feeling utterly emptied.
But other relatives of the missing, who had been summoned for the same demonstration, would see meaning in the pattern of red dots. This was the same barracks where, in the days after his kidnapping, Erika Arredondo had knocked on the door and demanded that special forces return her. That night in Mexico City, as Dominguez lay in her hotel room, she received a WhatsApp message from an unknownsomeone claiming to know where Jorge was held. The next day, Dominguez received a blurry photo of a slender man in jeans and a black shirt, leaned against a wall.
With more than 79, missing in Mexico, a market has arisen for extorting the families of lost relatives. Dominguez doubted this was her son, but she sent the money anyway. Jorge was gone. Now, Dominguez was certain she would get no help from the Mexican government. So she continued her own efforts to find Jorge. It is a small amount to aid their search for the missing. And while helpful, it is also a reminder of what the government itself is unwilling to do. Dominguez and the other women had heard stories that the military hides victims in prisons under different names.
So they used the stipend to travel hundreds of miles to other states—Baja California, Sonora, Pueblo, Guadalajara, Jalisco. At the prisons, each woman presented a picture of her lost relative to the inmates, hoping to spark a memory or a lead. It was on one of these searches, in the state of Durango, in Decemberwhen Dominguez met a young man who said he had seen Jorge. Jorge had protected him, the boy said, which Dominguez thought was something her son would do.
But months passed. Then, this past spring, the attorney general called off all investigations because of the Covid pandemic. This summer, the women learned that four soldiers were being prosecuted for the disappearance of Julio Cesar Viramontes Arredondo, the man whom special forces had hit with their truck, and whose mother had possibly knocked on the barracks door while he was inside.
Maybe this would be the first of many prosecutions, the women thought. But at the hearing in August, the judge let the special forces soldiers gosaying they were public servants who could be easily found when necessary.Nuevo laredo nude women
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