Two brothers from Brownsville, Texas have gone missing in an area of Mexico that has witnessed a sudden rise in cartel violence.
The two brothers vanished after driving to Matamoros, in the state of Tamaulipas, on Sunday to visit their grandmother, according to the Brownsville police. The wife of one man, Ernesto Garcia, filed a missing persons report earlier this week and Mexican police have been searching for the vehicle the men were traveling in. The FBI has also become involved in the search.
“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,” U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville told the Houston Chronicle. “More killings? More kidnappings? More missing Americans?”
This week, Matamoros and the towns along the Rio Grande north to Reynosa have been put on edge by rolling gunbattles between the rival cartel factions. A total of 15 people have reportedly been killed. Among the injured was a local newspaper editor.
Enrique Juárez Torres, editor of El Mañana in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, said his kidnapping on Wednesday was a warning from the Gulf Cartel over publishing reports in Wednesday's newspaper about gunfights in the area.
Thursday's edition of El Mañana in Matamoros carried no mention of Juárez's kidnapping nor the dummy grenade tossed at the door of city hall. Both stories appeared in its sister paper, El Mañana in Reynosa.
Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Juárez was in his office on the second floor the newspaper's downtown building. Three armed men entered, asked for him and found their way to his office. They dragged him outside and pushed him into a van. He was driven around the city, punched repeatedly and told he would be killed if he continued publishing stories about the drug violence plaguing the area. They dropped him off later outside the newspaper.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros issued a warning to U.S. citizens on Wednesday of a "likelihood of increased violence in the Matamoros vicinity, reportedly between the Matamoros and Reynosa factions of the Gulf cartel."
Unlike its sister paper in Reynosa, which published stories Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday about the violence, El Mañana in Matamoros had published nothing until Wednesday.
"Because it was a situation of 'Enough already,' there is a lot happening," Juárez said of the decision to publish. But he said the decision to break with the usual policy of not reporting on cartel violence was made by the newspaper's owners. Asked if he agreed, he said, "Truthfully, no, because I suspected that something was going to happen, and it did."
"What they did to me was a warning," Juárez said of his kidnappers. "It is a warning to all of us who work there, those who are physically in Matamoros and those who are not in Matamoros."
Juárez, who has been editor of the newspaper for five years, said the cartel had gotten his attention previously over stories related to drug activities. He said he now considered himself a "marked" man and left Matamoros Wednesday night.
The Matamoros paper will once again avoid publishing stories that could upset the cartel, he said.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 76 news media workers have been slain in Mexico since 1992.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.