Mexican military units and federal agents have raided houses in and around Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, detaining more than 40 people, including some possible kidnap victims. The action has raised hope for families of the missing on both sides of the border.
More than 200 Mexican soldiers have been carrying out the raids in the Nuevo Laredo area. Several of the people they detained are suspected of being involved in the kidnappings. Mexican authorities say many of the others may be people who were kidnapped because of their involvement in drug trafficking.
Nuevo Laredo has been the scene of drug-related violence for the past several months as the result of a war between two powerful drug gangs. More than 70 people have been killed in the city since the beginning of this year. Earlier this month, the Mexican federal government took control of the city and detained most of its police force on suspicion of corruption. The military has patrolled the streets since then.
News of the raids in Mexico has raised hopes for the families of kidnap victims in both Nuevo Laredo, on the Mexican side, and in Laredo, Texas, on the other side of the Rio Grande river. Some 40 US citizens from the Laredo area have disappeared in Mexico over the past year.
Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores, in Laredo, tells VOA he is trying to coordinate as best he can with counterparts on the Mexican side of the river.
"We are not in direct contact with them, but we have a liaison person that we are dealing with who works with the Mexican government. Really, it is the Mexican military," Mr. Flores says. "We are working with Mexican military authorities."
Sheriff Flores says the families of kidnap victims in his jurisdiction are hoping and praying that the current military operations in Mexico will result in their loved ones being rescued. One such person is William Slemaker, step-father of Yvette Martinez, a 27-year-old mother of two daughters, who was kidnapped along with her friend, Brenda Cisneros, nine months ago on Nuevo Laredo street.
Doing his own investigation, Mr. Slemaker found his step-daughter's missing car in a compound often used by local police, who he determined were thoroughly corrupt and most likely involved in the crime. He says the entry of the Mexican troops has given him hope because they are listening to him and following some of the leads he has developed.
"We witnessed firsthand that they are doing their job now. We provided them with some information and they acted on it," Mr. Slemaker says. "That gave us the confidence that they are doing what they say they are and so we are very hopeful."
Mr. Slemaker and the father of the other missing woman are now crossing the border each day to help the Mexican army in the search for kidnap victims.
In Mexico City, US Ambassador Tony Garza issued a statement praising the Mexican military operations and expressing the hope that the missing Americans "will be found safe and sound."