McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Three women from the South Texas border town of Peñitas have been missing in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León for two weeks, local law enforcement tells Border Report.
This case, however, has not gotten the publicity or attention by the FBI or U.S. officials as did the recent kidnappings at gunpoint of four Americas, two of whom were killed, in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas.
Peñitas Police Inspector Oscar Barron on Monday told Border Report that the family of the three women reported them missing to local police on Feb. 27. That’s three days after they left for the city of Montemorelos in Nuevo León, to sell used clothing at a flea market there.
Barron says they are still unaccounted for.
“There has not been any updates as of right now. They have not heard from them. That’s basically all there is,” Barron said.
Barron said the police department put the family in touch with the FBI to report them missing after they had “100% proof that they did cross into Mexico.”
The FBI told the Associated Press the agency is aware that two sisters from Peñitas and their friend have gone missing.
Maritza Trinidad Perez Rios, 47; Marina Perez Rios, 48; and their friend, Dora Alicia Cervantes Saenz, 53, reportedly left for Montemorelos to sell clothes at a flea market in the city, which is located about a three-hour drive south of the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo.
The husband of one of the women spoke to her by phone while she was traveling in Mexico but grew concerned when he couldn’t reach her afterward, according to the Associated Press.
Barron says several of their family members are in Nuevo León looking for them.
The trio reportedly crossed into Mexico in the South Texas border town of Mission, Texas, via the Anzalduas International Bridge, Sam Vale, president of the Starr‐Camargo Bridge Company, and past chairman and founding member of the Border Trade Alliance told Border Report.
Vale says selling used clothing from the United States in Mexico “is a big business.” He said “they are also sold by cartels.”
Vale says it is not uncommon for independent vendors to be approached by cartel operatives and asked to pay a “fee” to sell the used clothing, also known as ropa usada.
The Border Trade Alliance is a tri‐national organization that advocates for public policy that advances secure trade and travel across the U.S.‐Mexico and U.S.‐Canada borders.
Vale says those who do not pay face punishment by the cartel. Women are especially vulnerable to being sexually assaulted.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents South Texas and whose hometown is Laredo, told Border Report that Mexico must do more to ensure the safety of Mexicans and Americans in Mexico.
“Mexico just has to do something,” said Cuellar, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
“They owe it to their people and they certainly owe it to all these tourists who go there, whether for medical tourism or whatever, the Mexican government owes that security to anybody who goes and visits Mexico.”
The FBI has launched a digital media tip line for information on the kidnappings of four Americans from South Carolina and the subsequent deaths of two in Matamoros on March 3. The four were caught in a shootout involving cartel gangs as they said they were looking for a doctor’s office where one was scheduled to undergo a cosmetic surgery procedure.
Officials ask anyone with photos or videos related to the murder and kidnapping of the four Americans to submit them to www.fbi.gov/brownsville or call the FBI San Antonio office at (210) 225-6741.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com