Tales of the disappeared in a Mexico drug state

By Sofia Miselem, AFP

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico–They were doing everyday things when they were kidnapped, never to be seen again: A woman working at her frozen fruit business. Another waiting for a bus. A policewoman having lunch. They are among the 5,000 people who are listed as “disappeared” in Tamaulipas, the northeastern Mexican state with the most missing people in Mexico, where a total of 26,000 have vanished amid a brutal, nearly decade-old drug war. Those are the official figures. For the non-governmental organization Families and Friends of the Disappeared in Tamaulipas, 11,000 people are unaccounted for in the state. The disappearance of 43 students in southern Guerrero state last year put a spotlight on the plight of Mexico’s disappeared. But there are many, many other untold stories across Mexico, especially in Tamaulipas, where many fear the consequences of angering the Gulf or Zetas drug cartels. In Ciudad Victoria, the Tamaulipas state capital, members of the Families and Friends of the Disappeared gathered at a humble home to tell their stories to AFP: Raquel, 19 Gunmen burst into the home of Guillermo Gutierrez Riestra on Sept. 1, 2011 and kidnapped his 19-year-old daughter, Raquel, and a friend of hers. She was about to start college and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. “It was the Zetas. They burned the house and the car. I think they kidnapped 50 young people that day alone. We think they did it to force people to join their organization,” Gutierrez said. Dalia, 26 Alma Miriam Ruiz has not had any news of her 26-year-old daughter, Dalia, since she went to a bus station in the town of San Fernando, 170 kilometers north of Ciudad Victoria, five years ago. She disappeared just days after August 27, 2010, when 72 migrants were slaughtered by the Zetas drug cartel in that town. Dalia was working in San Fernando and was coming home to see her children, who lived with Alma. “I don’t know much about her disappearance. They say one of those guys (gang members) took her by force. I think they take them to work as a girlfriend,” she said. Gladys, 35 Gladys, 35, was proud of being a state police officer. She hated desk work and loved operations.

Her mother, Maria Luisa Silva, showed a picture of the young woman smiling in her uniform, holding a gun. On May 14, 2014, Gladys went out to eat with a friend and never returned. “We don’t know who the friend was,” Maria Luisa said. She suspects her disappearance was part of a vendetta linked to her daughter’s police work. “Nine days earlier, they killed a police chief in a shooting. They detained nine police officers. She detained one of the criminals.” Zaida, 17