‘It’s not safe’ | Travel to Mexico discouraged as violence increases and hundreds of Americans remain missing

One Texas father knows the pain of losing a daughter after she vanished with a friend in Nuevo Laredo in 2004.

SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Department of Public Safety is urging against travel to Mexico for Spring Break. The advisory follows a rise in drug cartel violence in parts of the region.

In early March, four Americans were kidnapped in the Mexican City of Matamoros. Within a matter of days, two of them returned to the U.S. while the other two were killed.

Meantime, little is known about the disappearance of three American women. Officials have identified them as Marina Perez Rios, her sister Maritza, and their friend Dora Saenz. They left the south Texas town of Mission on February 24th to sell clothes at a Mexican flea market and haven’t been heard from since.

According to Mexican records obtained by the Washington Post, more than 550 Americans remain missing in Mexico. That’s small in comparison to the tens of thousands Mexicans missing in the country.

The father of a Texas woman who vanished in 2004 knows what its like to go without learning the fate of a loved one for years, and even now questions remain. This September will mark 19 years since 27-year-old Yvette Martinez vanished. She was one of two young Laredo women who disappeared after a concert in Nuevo Laredo in 2004.

Her stepfather William Slemaker said she was kidnapped and murdered.

“Unfortunately, we never got justice for her,” said Slemaker.

Slemaker believes a former leader of the Zetas cartel carried out the kidnapping that led to her probable death as a favor for ‘an informant of the DEA’. Since 2017, when the former cartel leader was charged with other crimes, there hasn’t been new movement on the case.

Questions remain for Slemaker but learning of the women currently missing in Mexico resonates. 

“I hope they are alive and hopefully our government will do something,” he said.

Like his own daughter, Slemaker is frustrated over what he said is a lack of response to find the missing women who are Mexican American. He feels other missing persons cases have been solved quicker, and that there is a disparity when it comes to investigating victims of Mexican descent.

“I think that the government should put that effort forward for all U.S. citizens,” he said.

According to CNN, the FBI said on Sunday it is “unable to provide comment on this ongoing investigation” but that it “relentlessly pursues all options when it comes to protecting the American people, and this doesn’t change when they are endangered across the border.”

Still, Slemaker is relentless when it comes to warning those who are choosing to travel to Mexico for Spring Break.

“Especially, parents to tell their kids it’s not safe,” said Slemaker.

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