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By Michael Webster: Investigative Reporter: March 3, 2008 12:00 Noon PST
23 year old American from El Paso Kyle Mostello Belanger- Believed Missing in Juarez Mexico
Born in Tenn. 23 year old American from El Paso Kyle Mostello Belanger- believed missing in Juarez Mexico. Close friends and relatives believe he was a soldier for the El Paso Barrio Azteca gang. The real question here, was Kyle kidnapped taken to Juarez and murdered as some believe?
Dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, held hostage and killed by their captors in Mexico and many cases remain unsolved. Moreover, new cases of disappearances and kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported.
From Brownsville Texas to San Diego California and as far north as Dallas Texas Americans are being kidnapped and killed. All of this is escalating narcotics-related violence across northern Mexico; the State Department has alerted Americans of the dangers of crossing the border. But there are no alerts of Americans being kidnapped right here on U.S. soil and being held as hostages or for ransom and being killed.
A popular internet publication recently told about kidnapping of American citizens along the border by Mexican gangs. The citizens are held in holding areas and it's carried out in a 4 prong manner, locator's, abductors, transporters, and holders. It's very hard to kill a 4 headed snake. The number of kidnappings has risen each year for the last 3 years.
Mexican cartels through there enforcers of Mexican and American gangs order smaller American gangs to kidnap and in some cases murder Americans.
"U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk posed by the deteriorating security situation, along the border" said a statement issued in Mexico City and Washington. "Violent criminal activity, including murder and kidnapping, in Mexico's northern border region has increased."
New cases of disappearances and kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported. No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Criminals have been known to follow and harass U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles, particularly in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Reynosa, Juarez, Mexicali, Tijuana and most all border towns.
The Mexican government has described the violence as revenge for President Felipe Calderón's year-old crackdown on organized crime that sent thousands of soldiers and federal police into violence-plagued Mexican cities bordering the United States.
The Mexican President Calderon, as while as other officials have pledged to break the country's powerful drug cartels, which earn billions of dollars a year by supplying U.S. users.
The State Department said police forces in Mexican border communities "suffer from lack of funds and training, and the judicial system is weak, overworked and inefficient."
"I worry that the inability of local law enforcement to come to grips with rising drug warfare, kidnappings and random street violence will have a chilling effect on the cross-border exchange, tourism and commerce so vital to the region's prosperity," Traffickers are armed with AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and bazookas. They're carrying other weapons, wearing vests and using police jargon. Within a minute or two, someone is shoving a hood over the victim's head and dragging him into a vehicle. His car is left on the side of the road – often outgunning and intimidating border police, sheriff depts., and Mexican security forces.
An alarming number of Americans are vanishing in Mexico where there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of U.S. citizens who have recently been reported missing or kidnapped along the border with Mexico, reports the Washington Post. Many who have vanished from U.S. cities are still missing and it is feared they will turn up in the mass graves that have been discovered lately in Mexico.
Of the few that the FBI reported as known kidnappings there were 27 U.S. citizens that have been kidnapped or disappeared, nine were later released, two found dead and 10 still missing. ” said FBI agent Alex Horan, who directs the FBI's violent-crime squad. These reports are out dated and officials believe the real numbers are much greater. All 27 were Americans from the San Diego area. "The U.S. government would like to think that drug violence is just a problem south of the Rio Grande. It isn't," said Raymundo Ramos, a human rights advocate in Nuevo Laredo.
It’s believed now that there are many more Americans missing many others from Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Reynosa, Juarez, Mexicali, Tijuana and other border cities. When asked, the FBI said they have no other numbers other then those 27 reported. However my source says El Paso FBI agent Josie Figaro was notified.
Law enforcement officials said some of the vanishings may be owing to a war among Mexican drug cartels vying for control of the smuggling routes and ports of entry which are the gateway for millions of dollars' worth of illicit drugs that are smuggled north by truck, car, boats and trains and mixed in with cargoes of legitimate goods.
U.S. officials say, "We're seeing outright lawlessness along the U.S. Mexican border. Things are just getting out of hand."
An FBI official said that another cause is the apparent burgeoning of a cottage industry of kidnapping for ransom - some of those returned alive had been held captive for days or even months, after their abductors demanded payments as high as $100,000.
Historically, drug-related violence was generally confined to the Mexican side of the border, news reports disclosed. However that pattern is changing, advised officials.
In spite of the dangers Mexico continues to attract U.S. citizens who want to visit relatives or buy cheaper medicines, have cut rate dental work done or prescription eyewear or just be a tourist. It is also a draw for young people, who migrate there on weekends to party late and enjoy the lower drinking age of 18.
Mexico has sent federal police officers and Mexican army personal to patrol the streets of most of their cities bordering the U.S. The officers were dispatched at the request of local authorities who said crime had spun out of control.
Interior Secretary Santiago Creel said that Mexico "is determined to wage a head-on battle" against drug traffickers and organized crime in the country.
"U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk posed by the deteriorating security situation," the State Department advisory has said, though it stopped short of urging Americans to avoid Mexico. Downtown El Paso businessman Jamie Rodriguez said “if the same circumstance that now exist in Mexico existed in any other country the U.S. State Dept would advise Americans to not even go there.”
The close relationship between the two governments and indeed both presidents may contribute to that lenience shown Mexico by the U.S. Government.
The U.S. consul to Reynosa, on the Mexican border across from McAllen, Texas, issued an alert for U.S. travelers planning to visit that city. The advisory came after officials received reports that Mexican police allegedly were forcing U.S. drivers to remote places or to automated cash machines, where they were told to hand over money or face jail time.
In Mexico another dangerous crime against tourist is you can be kidnapped in what is more like a shakedown or robbery than a classic ransom situation. American tourists have reported to the Mexican police that while driving along main and rural roads at dusk or after dark. Road blocks are set up. This can be as sophisticated as a movable plank with spikes or as low-tech as glass or sharp rocks. When their motor home or car is disabled, a group of armed banditos approached them with guns drawn. Often, a truck or van parked on the side of the road starts up and slowly approaches the scene. The men often dressed as Mexican police begin to take their possessions and rummage through their belongings. Then in many cases it is reported they take all the victims cash. Victims report hoods are placed over their heads they are loaded into trucks or SUV’s and driven to another location. You might be asked again for more money. In more cases then not Mexican police report the woman are raped and the victim tourists are abandoned far from their vehicle.
There have been reported some high-profile cases where the victims, including two American college women, who were slain after they were robbed.
The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE on October 24, 2007, issued this Travel Alert for U.S. citizens on security situations in Mexico that may affect their activities while in that country. This supersedes the previous Travel Alert for Mexico dated April 19, 2007. This Travel Alert expires on April 15, 2008.
Narcotics-Related Violence — “U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Violence by criminal elements affects many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas. In the last twelve months there have been execution-style murders of Mexican officials in Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Baja California, Guerrero (particularly Acapulco), Nuevo Leon (especially in and around Monterrey), Cd. Jaurez and other states. Though there is no evidence that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, Mexican and foreign bystanders have been injured or killed in some violent attacks demonstrating the heightened risk in public places. In its effort to combat violence, the Government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens are advised to co-operate with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways. Critic’s claim this is not enough, stronger cautions should be a part of the U.S alerts.
In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Mexico and many cases remain unresolved. U.S. citizens should avoid traveling alone as a means to better ensure their safety. Refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items”.
Sophisticated Mexican groups plot abductions Organized, well-financed and violent Mexican kidnapping cells are targeting a growing number of U.S. citizens visiting Mexico.
But authorities said anyone planning to visit Mexico should be cautious.
“I would certainly be concerned,” Horan said. “It's not a pleasant experience. Victims have reported beatings, torture and there have been rapes. . . . Handcuffs and hoods over the head are common,” he said
Gunfights and other violence linked to drug cartels have increased along the U.S. Mexican border and more Mexican citizens have been kidnapped lately.
While some of the groups suspected of kidnapping Americans are connected to drug trafficking, most aren't, Horan said.
He described the kidnapping groups as sophisticated operations similar to terrorist cells, each with a boss and clear divisions of labor. Usually, one group is involved in scouting, another carries out the kidnapping, a third holds the victim and a fourth handles the ransom.
“They know who they're going after. I think they have a list,” Horan said. “These are kidnapping cells. . . . That's what they do. They do kidnappings all year long.”
While the FBI wouldn't say what the ransom demands are, or how often they're paid, agents said money is driving the increase.
“This is not about terrorizing people or retaliating. This is about making money, and obviously this is good business for them,” Horan said.
“We've had victims held for days to months,” Horan said.
Not every victim is Hispanic, but there have been “very few cases where a tourist is targeted at random,” said Eric Drickersen, who supervises the FBI's border liaison office.
Some of the kidnappings go unreported because people fear retribution, Drickersen said.
Ransom demands are almost always made over the phone. The cross-border communication gives the FBI its jurisdiction. But the agents need authorization from Mexican authorities before they can carry out an operation across the border. So many Americans are lift at the mercy of the Mexican government. Seldom are the criminals caught.
Mexican authorities have been helpful, their U.S. counterparts said.
“They're cooperating, but we would like them to do even more,” Drickersen said.
Recently, Mexican authorities rescued two female real estate agents who were being held in a Tijuana neighborhood. The women were kidnapped Jan. 19 by three men after showing a property in southern Tijuana, the Baja California Attorney General's Office said in a statement.
The men called in a ransom demand of $350,000, the statement said. Family members negotiated a payment of $27,000 and dropped off the cash, but the women weren't released.
Baja California state agents tracked down the vehicle used to pick up the cash. The driver led authorities to the women, and three men were arrested.