Two U.S. Army veterans have disappeared in a Mexican border town that has become a bloody battleground in a dispute between two rival factions of a drug cartel.
Ernesto Garcia and his brother, Jesus, were last heard from during the early morning of Monday, Feb. 2. The two brothers – from Brownsville, Texas -- drove into Matamoros on Jan. 31 to visit their grandmother and planned to return home around 2 a.m. Monday morning, KGRV reports.
Ernesto’s wife told the station that the brothers usually return home during the day. She said she received a message from Ernesto at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning that said “Hi,” and her teenage son received two messages from him that said “Hello my son. I love you.”
The brothers have not been heard from since the messages, and attempts to contact them on their phones have been unsuccessful.
“I'm hurt. I'm mad. My children are asking for him all the time. I don't know what to tell them. I just want my husband back,” Ernesto’s wife – whose name was not available – told KGRV.
Ernesto's wife said he is a U.S. Army veteran who served for 16 years, including fighting in Iraq. His brother, Jesus, served in Afghanistan.
The city of Matamoros has been reeling from drug cartel-related violence in recent days, with the U.S. Consulate there issuing an advisory Wednesday warning of increased violence between the Matamoros and Reynosa factions of the Gulf Cartel.
On Thursday, the city’s mayor, Leticia Salazar, warned citizens to protect their families as skirmishes erupted across the city, MySanAntonio.com reports.
“I don’t understand what it is going to take for the administrations in Mexico City and Washington, D.C., to take action to address the violence in Tamaulipas,” said U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, referring to the region where Matamoros is located. “More killings? More kidnappings? More missing Americans?”
On Wednesday, the El Manana newspaper in Matamoros published a front-page story on the rolling gun battles between Mexican authorities and cartel gunmen, which has left more than 15 people dead, MySanAntonio.com reports.
Shortly after the paper hit newsstands, its editor, Enrique Juarez Torres, was kidnapped Wednesday and beaten by three armed men who only let him go after warning him to stop covering the fighting.
Ernesto’s wife filed a missing person report Tuesday and authorities are now searching for the 2009 charcoal Nissan Altima that the brothers were traveling in.
Police told KGRV that there has been no record of the car entering back into the U.S.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the brothers is urged to call Brownsville Crime Stoppers at 956-546-8477.