A Story of Violence and Highway Robbery in Nuevo Laredo

This post is based on an article published by the Mexican blog Soy Barrio on June 29, 2019.

A family of migrants now residing in the U.S. became the victim of a series of crimes and violent acts committed on Saturday, June 22, when they journeyed south from Houston, Texas, crossed the border to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, intending to continue on to their native Guanajuato City in Central Mexico. This incident was reported by a direct relative of the victims.

The imagined "dream trip" ended in violent theft by supposed employees of the Tax Administration Service (SAT), who by aiming large weapons imposed their will on more than a dozen of families.

Nuevo Laredo map
Nuevo Laredo is marked in red.

At 4:30 in the morning, a vehicle occupied by two women and an adult man accompanied by two minors arrived at the border customs station, where customs agents conducted a routine inspection and a declaration was made without mishap.

From Laredo International Bridge 1, the migrant family proceeded south to the SAT offices, where each visitor to Mexico has to buy a transit permit for their vehicle.

Highway Banditry South of the Rio Grande

However, that Saturday nothing was to be nothing normal for the visitors, for when they tried to drive into the SAT facility they were intercepted by two vans, from which descended subjects armed with high caliber weapons, who identified themselves as Zetas and demanded a payment of $600 for right of way.

With verbal threats and physical hostilities, the bandits deprived the family of $400 and the equivalent of an additional $100, in pesos. Despite having put up resistance and despite the presence of two minors in the vehicle, the bandits insisted until they had obtained what didn't belong to them. Only in this way were the visitors able to enter the SAT, where they observed that at least 20 other people had experienced the same situation.

The SAT Office in Nuevo Laredo
The Tax Administration Service in Nuevo Laredo

Between 400 to 1000 dollars had been violently collected from those countrymen who had decided to visit their homeland at the wrong time. Fear forced the victims to leave the SAT facility in a caravan, in the hope of deterring aggressors from again drawing near, but that wasn't how things worked out.

Once again the travelers were intercepted, this time by Ford Explorers blocking their way, and with the same fury they were asked to pay a "right of way fee". Although the victims objected that they had already given everything they had, the armed men asked them for a proof of payment that some of them didn't have.

The family from Guanajuato was able to verbally prove they had in fact paid what was being demanded, to a subject they could identify as an SAT employee. In the same way, other victims reported having seen within the SAT office, even processing road permits, several of the individuals who at the point of a gun had robbed them of all the money they brought with them.

Mexican Border Region Dominated by Organized Crime

The victims are afraid to file a judicial complaint, due to the information their victimizers possess. Personal information like their homes in the United States, their city of origin, their names and phone numbers has tied the hands of dozens of Mexican migrants, for whom a normal visit to their home country has left a bitter taste in their mouths.

The threats of robbery and personal disappearances are the daily bread of the countrymen who occasionally visit Mexico. The border is dominated, from end-to-end, by the open presence of organized crime, which has managed to infiltrate the corners of government agencies in order to stir fear, and thus strip those who with great effort cross the international bridge of the few dollars in their possession.