As many as 50 people are missing after setting out on three-hour car trips this year between Mexico's industrial hub of Monterrey and the border city of Nuevo Laredo, on a well-traveled stretch of road the local media have dubbed "the highway of death." Relatives say family members simply vanished. The disappearances, and last week's shooting of 15 apparently innocent bystanders in Reynosa, suggest Mexico is returning to the dark days of the 2006-12 drug war when cartel gunmen often targeted the general public as well as one another. "It's no longer between the cartels; they are attacking the public," said activist Angelica Orozco. As many as a half-dozen of those who disappeared on the highway are believed to be US citizens or residents, the AP reports, though the US Embassy could not confirm their status. One, José de Jesús Gómez from Irving, Texas, reportedly disappeared on the highway on June 3.
Most of the victims are believed to have disappeared approaching or leaving the cartel-dominated city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas. About a half-dozen men have reappeared alive, badly beaten; all they will say is that armed men forced them to stop on the highway and took their vehicles. What happened to the rest, including a woman and her two young children, remains a mystery. Most were residents of Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located. Relatives took to the streets in Monterrey on Thursday to protest, demanding answers from politicians and prosecutors. Javier Toto Cagal, a 36-year-old truck driver and father of five, disappeared along with three employees of the same trucking company on the 135-mile stretch of highway on June 3. They were driving to Nuevo Laredo in a car. Two days later, the company told Erma Fiscal Jara, Toto Cagal's wife, that he had disappeared. "As far as the authorities," she said, "I ask and they say 'we don't know anything.'" A woman whose husband disappeared April 13 complained that "only now is the National Guard going out to patrol the highway. Why did they wait so long?"
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