César Salazar, José Melesio and María Guadalupe Cayente, mother of Leonardo Reyes, hold photo of their son Courtesy / RR SS
José Melesio wanted to marry Daniela Márquez next September. He traveled to Mexico from Cincinnati, where he had lived since he was 12, to meet her. On December 25, the two disappeared along with Daniela’s sister and cousin on the Zacatecas-Jalisco highway. Their bodies were found in a ditch three weeks later. In June 2021, César Salazar, who lived in Los Angeles, joined his family in Guanajuato. He was last seen with his cousin Jorge Enrique Rodríguez on the Juventino-Celaya highway. Their bodies were found in a ditch a month later. In December 2018, Leo Reyes returned to Salvador de Allende to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. He drove off to look for a signal to call his girlfriend in Dallas, where he worked. A group of state police gunned him down. They were 36, 38 and 23 years old. They were of American nationality and were returning to Mexico for the vacation. All three were killed. In no case are there prisoners, let alone convicts. Their families, with whom EL PAÍS spoke, are demanding justice.
The case of José Melesio has stirred up the Mexican community in the US: Around 12.3 million Mexican-born people live on the other side of the border, most of them fleeing violence or poverty, many of whom have never returned. Melesio’s family settled in Cincinnati in 2010. José, says his father Enrique, was initially a shy boy, but later became the first graduate of the house. He studied architecture at the University of Miami and worked for two years at a company in Ohio, which is now outraged by what happened to the young man. “They have decided to give a scholarship in my son’s name,” says Enrique Melesio on the other end of the line from León, Guanajuato, as they prepare their bags to return to the United States with their son’s body.
The family had planned to spend New Year’s Eve in Cancun. José was scheduled to meet her on December 28 after spending a few days in Colotlán, Jalisco, where his fiancée lived. Everything collapsed when they got the call. José, Daniela, Viviana and Paola were on Christmas Day in Jerez de García Salinas, a “magical” town in Zacatecas, the name given in Mexico to small towns that stand out for their history or architecture, about 70 kilometers from the house of the away girl. Late that night they decided to return. At 11:11 p.m., at the height of Víboras, on the state road 23, Daniela Márquez sent her parents a last location. That was the last we heard from them. In mid-January, they found his truck with bullet holes and the charred remains of the four. The main hypothesis suggests that the youths encountered an organized crime checkpoint and they were the ones who took them. In the same area, a fierce fight is being fought between criminal groups, which has already left dozens of cities and 17 missing in December alone.
American José Melesio Gutiérrez and his fiancée, Mexican Daniela Márquez. decency
On the night of June 12-13, 2021, César Salazar, a business representative from Los Angeles, and his cousin Jorge Rodríguez, a college professor, left Guanajuato and took the highway to Celaya. Jorge was showing César, who had lived in the US almost his entire life, the state when they once had a flat tire on their way home. They arrived at the gas station in Santiago de Cuenda at 1:30 am. Jorge’s father and his nephew Henry came to help them. In the parking lot, a teenager of about 17 approached, took a picture of César and Jorge, asked where they were from and sent an audio: “It’s them, they say they’re from Yustis, do you recognize them?” On on the other side, someone replied, “No, we don’t recognize them, stop them there.” The men hurried, by 2:10 they had finished changing the tire and were on their way. César and Jorge’s car was intercepted by a truck and shots were heard. They disappeared.
Accompanied by the Guanajuato Platform for Peace and Justice, the families sought help from the United Nations. The Committee Against Forced Disappearances asked the Mexican government on July 27 to develop a strategy to find them. Three days later, Guanajuato prosecutors announced that they had identified the remains of the two men in the forensic service. “What we were able to verify later is that they used ponchallantas on this highway, which is in an area controlled by the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel,” Raymundo Sandoval, a human rights defender accompanying the case, told EL PAÍS . “It wasn’t that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, there was an intent, a strategy. It is the so-called disappearance device that links the structure of criminal groups to the omission or complicity of the authorities,” he explains.
Leo Reyes was shot dead on a dirt road by a tactical group dependent on the State Public Security Forces (FSPE). The young man had only returned a few days to San Miguel de Allende, from where his family had legally settled in the United States about seven years ago, because Leo was a great devotee of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He arrived in Guanajuato with his parents, he accompanied them for an eye exam, he helped the women of the city remove some stones from the river, the same day they bought the arrangements from the Virgin they burned it Gunpowder , he went to a football tournament, he returned home happy because he had won a ball, he had dinner, he changed because it was cold and he went upstairs, looking for a sign to start with his Speaking to girlfriend, Lists his mother Guadalupe Cayenta, who finishes: “But he didn’t come back.”
A brother of the woman reported that they saw some patrols and that the young man was not coming back. The whole family went to look for him and shots were heard. Guadalupe and her daughter-in-law crawled across the grass to the agents and Leo’s vehicle. “We lay there and listened to what they said. “Fucking kings, it was already worth a cock,” said a woman’s voice, “let’s retire, nothing happens here,” said a man. They were already about to start cordoning off and we were stranded, we couldn’t record because we were very close,” she recalls, now in a broken voice, from San Antonio. They walked as they had arrived, elbows on the Tepetate. They looked for him around town, in the hospitals and at the prosecutor’s office. On December 13, 2018, Leo Reyes was dead.
The family managed to reopen the case in September, which was dropped by prosecutors. The authorities’ version did not agree with the judge: they assured that Reyes fired first, but that only cases from the agents were present; that he was accompanied by another person and felt threatened, but he was alone; that he died in the “shooting”, but the experts showed that the young man bled to death from a shot in the back. No policeman called the ambulance to help him: they let him die.
The story continues through his mother’s voice. “They left us dead alive. There are no answers,” says Guadalupe, “he was on a dirt road that leads to our ranch, we all know each other here, there is only one entrance and one exit, what were so many doing here?” After those years, points Raymundo Sandoval, who was with the family, pointed out that the agents “lost control, used firearms without respecting the level of violence used, and when they realized the abuse they tried to cover it up.” “. Half of the six agents who were there that night no longer work in Guanajuato. No one was incapacitated or prosecuted. “They were wrong because they thought nobody was looking at them, but we were there,” says Cayenta, who admits she knows she’s at risk.
“In none of these three cases was there a sanction and a pattern is emerging,” says the activist, who points out that the deaths of Leo, César and José became visible, but it is not known how many other cases of disappearance there are on the Guanajuato highway, from Zacatecas, like many unofficial executions. “They demonstrate the difficulty of moving freely in Guanajuato, which is experiencing a general crisis of insecurity that has been growing over the past five years. Enforced disappearances are the tip of the iceberg of violence,” he emphasizes, “while we have life projects that are thwarted by violence.”
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