Project

Nuevo Laredo's Disappeared

Maria Elena Dominguez’s son disappeared on April, 4, 2018, as he left his family's home in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. It was evening, and a neighbor would later tell investigators he saw uniformed men in two trucks shout at Jorge to stop, then heard the screech of tires as the trucks sped away with the teenager. Dominguez drove immediately to the police station, crying that if Jorge was arrested there must be some mistake. She went to the jail, the federal police office, and the U.S. embassy, because Jorge was a U.S citizen, born and raised in Texas.

Across Nuevo Laredo that spring, dozens of people disappeared in a similar fashion. Men, women, children as young as 14. They were taken in the daylight and the dark; in auto shops and as they drove the street, even as they lay down to sleep in their homes. For two years, the government claimed Jorge and the other disappeared people were taken by narcos. But recently, Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights released a report on the disappearances that in no uncertain terms blamed Mexico’s marines, the country’s most elite counter narcotics force, trained by the U.S. and supported with American tax dollars.

This investigation will look into these disappearances and the U.S. government’s close ties with the Mexican marines. The marines are supported with military equipment through the Merida Initiative, and are trained by American agencies, including the military’s U.S. Northern Command. The marines are the most trusted force in Mexico’s drug war, and in 2016 they brought down the infamous Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The Drug Enforcement Agency, even the CIA, are known to ride along with the marines on counternarcotics investigations. This story will ask questions about why no U.S. agency has searched for answers about the kidnapping of Jorge—a Mexican-American teenager who’d recently moved to Mexico to be with his mother. It will also ask what happens when the most trusted force in Mexico, the military unit our U.S. drug war policy depends on, can no longer be trusted.