“To whoever has them, we tell them that we are not looking for culprits. We just want to get them back because we are desperate. And that’s why we ask for help to look for them even under the stones.”
The call for help is made by Maria, daughter of Amador Aguilar Mendoza, 55, and sister of Emmanuel Aguilar Bailon, 25; two of the 13 Mexican migrants missing since September 25 in a desert area located between the municipalities of Ojinaga and Guadalupe, on the border between Chihuahua and Texas, United States.
The group was already about to cross the border when, according to what he told the Chihuahua Prosecutor’s Office, days later a 14-year-old boy who managed to flee, an organized crime group intercepted them and took them away in three vehicles. More than two months later, no more is known about them. Therefore, for this Tuesday, December 14, it is expected that the relatives will hold a protest in front of the Government Palace of Chihuahua to demand the intervention of the Federal Government in this case.
Maria, who asks to protect her true identity for security reasons, explains in an interview that her brother Emmanuel was the one who convinced his father Amador to both ‘jump’ to the United States.
“My brother got the idea in his head to cross because we have relatives on the other side who told him to go there, that there he could get a good job. We told him that here in Mexico you can also do things, but he was already convinced that he wanted to leave,” says María.
So Emmanuel quit his casual job in a machine shop, and his father did the same at the building materials distributor where he worked.
“My brother was excited because he thought that in the United States he could raise enough money to build a house for his three-year-old daughter,” Maria says.
After raising some money and paying a coyote, father and son left chihuahua on the night of Friday, September 24, and headed for Aldama, less than 30 kilometers away. From there they would leave for Coyame, and from there they would cross the border through Ojinaga.
The last call, Maria narrates, was at seven in the morning on Saturday, September 25. Amador Aguilar communicated to warn that they were about to leave for the border with another group of 11 migrants, and that they would soon get in touch again. However, for the next five days, until Thursday, September 30, the family only got a harrowing silence.
“Since we had no news, we started calling the wife of the guide (also missing). And she was the one who gave us the information that, according to a minor who had managed to escape, they had been reached by organized crime.”
“You know what you have to do”
After managing to cross the border and be apprehended by the Border Patrol, which returned him to Mexico through the El Paso-Juárez crossing, the young man told Mexican authorities that after getting them into several vehicles he heard that one of the alleged criminals communicated by radio with someone. “You know what you have to do,” that person would have told him. However, when the young man thought that was the signal to be killed, what happened was that he was released. “Go and run,” they reportedly told the boy, who testified that in the escape he heard gunshots in the air.
Like the relatives of Benigno Alberto Álvarez Castro and Alan Ricardo Salas Torres, two other of the 13 missing migrants, María regrets that the air and land searches of the State Prosecutor’s Office have been sterile. And that, to date, they have only obtained false leads and extortion attempts.
According to the woman, a person contacted them to tell them that they had Amador and Emmanuel. He sent them a photo in which the brother supposedly appeared, along with a date and a text written on a sheet that said: “Help me.”
“We thought it was him, because he described it to us and gave us many details,” says Maria.
As a result of desperation, they agreed to deposit the amount of money demanded by the extortionist, who assured them that they would deliver father and son to a point on American soil, “because according to what they had better off there.”
The family made the deposit on October 2, at 10 a.m. Throughout that day and the morning of the next, the extortionist was answering messages and calls. “He was giving us long, until we confronted him. We told him if he was playing with us, or if he just wanted to get the money out of us. From there, he cut off the call and never communicated again.”
Since then, they have had no clues, and the investigations have left them with more doubts than certainties so far.
“For a search, there must first be a very firm investigation of how things happened on the day they did.and disappeared. And even months later, what we see is that there are many doubts,” says the woman, also in tune with the relatives of Benigno Alberto and Alan, who asked that the State Prosecutor’s Office stop looking at the gaps in roads that extend through the desert, to begin with the “searches” for the multiple safe houses that organized crime has in the area between Ciudad Juárez and Ojinaga.
“I know that there are many cases of missing persons in this country,” Maria concedes.
“But there are 13 people missing in a single event, and we cannot accept that this case is forgotten, nor that it is shelved,” insists the woman.
“Other looks are needed in the search”
So far, the people identified as missing are: Benigno Alberto Álvarez Castro, 36; Javier Ricardo Lopez Rodriguez, 38; Lorenzo Abraham Gonzalez Mendoza, 39; Emmanuel Aguilar Bailon, 25; Amador Aguilar Mendoza, 55; Jose Luis Pallares, 47; Luis Carlos Islas Villegas, 30; Alan Ricardo Salas Torres, 22; Daniel Villa Rascón; Elías Girón Mateo, from Edomex; Rodolfo Guzmán González, of Querétaro; and two other men whose families wanted to reserve their identities.
To this case are added two more: that of Omar Reyes López, 20 years old; a young man who left his hometown in the state of Hidalgo, who survived seven days walking lost in the desert on the border with the United States, and whose last clue to his whereabouts also leads to Ojinaga, where he was also reported missing. And the case of Tadeo Salvador Nieves Muñoz, a 24-year-old from Celaya, Guanajuato, who also crossed into the United States through the Ojinaga pass, and who has been missing since November 4 after the guide left him abandoned.
Activist Gabino Gómez, a member of the Center for Women’s Human Rights (CEDEHM) in Chihuahua, is accompanying the case of Omar and some of the families of the 13 missing migrants. In an interview, he said that “it is true that the Prosecutor’s Office is looking” for the migrants. “The problem is that so far they have not had any effective results, nor has any concrete data been obtained that tells us what really happened, much less knowing where they are,” said the human rights defender, who considered that in this case “other outside looks are needed” in the search.
“The Prosecutor’s Office must advise on other ways of doing the investigative work, because they are already exhausting all the possibilities and have not had any results, as they have not had in many other cases,” added Gómez, who said that only with him have arrived another 14 cases of missing persons in the area where allegedly a crime group took the 13 Mexican migrants.
For his part, the district attorney of the northern zone, Jesús Manuel Carrasco Chacón, also said in an interview that the search efforts continue in life of the 13 disappeared people.
So far, the prosecutor said that they have managed to rescue 60 migrants alive in the municipalities of Guadalupe and Práxedis Guerrero. One of the most recent rescues occurred on November 19, when in a joint operation carried out precisely to search for the 13 migrants between the area of Coyame, Ojinaga and Valle de Juárez, seven people who were lost were rescued. However, none of them are part of the group of 13 migrants who disappeared on 25 September.
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