Mexican law enforcement arrested suspected cartel member Mancinas Fidel Franco near Cananea on Saturday, January 21, 2012. He has been transferred to Mexico City and may face extradition to the United States on human trafficking charges in part related to the deaths of 11 immigrants killed in car accidents in 2009.
Fidel is described as a leader in the Pacific Cartel, also known as the Sinaloa cartel and using the alias Labrador Roberto Lopez. Most reports included Fidel’s arrest as a minimal addendum to high-ranking Sinaloa aide Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia’s death in Durango gunfire a day earlier – but on these details, they all agree.
My source, Eddie, called Thursday to tell me the news and discuss his family’s reactions.
“We don’t know the details of how he was arrested, what happened, was he caught crossing more people?” Eddie said when we spoke again a few days later. “We’re thinking that if we can somehow contact the law enforcement so they can ask this guy where is Andy.”
Eddie and his family are searching for their brother Andy who went missing in late July 2011 crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, probably somewhere in Cochise County, Arizona. They’ve asked that their last names be withheld for safety concerns – asking too many questions of the polleros, as border human smugglers are known, is dangerous. In fact, everything is dangerous: looking for someone to cross you safely, trying to trace those who go missing and especially crossing the border itself.
This is a world I stumbled across.
In fall of 2009 I was new to Arizona. I started “being a journalist” and “covering the border” at the same time by taking a class on border issues during my first semester at ASU‘s Walter Cronkite School. The goal was to design a story around the U.S.-Mexico border and the professor challenged a few of us to find out more about steadily rising border deaths in southern Arizona.
Three semesters of reporting and research left more questions than answers. Most of the manila mailing envelopes bulging with reports that I filed away as project paperwork were neatly labeled “John Doe” rather than actual names; most of the missing persons reports were open cases.
My reporting represents just a fraction of the reports collected by law enforcement, humanitarian volunteers and medical examiners along the border. And there are even more people who are never reported missing by family members fearful of contact with law enforcement, many bodies never recovered because they lie in locations too isolated or desert conditions too brutal to permit discovery.
And for every missing person or an unknown body, there’s a network of family and friends living day by day with that absence.
Last August an email appeared without warning:
Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM
My name is Eddie and we need your help for missing person, which is my brother in Law Andy. He is 45 years old and was trying to cross the border about three weeks ago from Arizona and he is missing since then. If possible please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to provide you with more information and hopefully find him. I will appreciate your help in this matter.
This is how I met Eddie.
The stream of updates began.
Last Saturday, we discussed Fidel’s arrest – the latest information in the stream that has slowed to an infrequent trickle as Andy’s trail cools.
Eddie says that Fidel, who is loosely connected by a relative’s husband’s relative, is the person Andy went to for help crossing the border. Since Andy’s disappearance, Fidel has told family members seeking information that he wants nothing to do with them.
I ask Eddie what effect the arrest could have.
“What I’m seeing, what happens when people like him get arrested, the Mexican government and law enforcement, they’re very tough on that. And they will get a lot of things,” Eddie says. “These people are in comfort, they have good life and they never see torture in their life probably. And once they get tortured, they will give some information out.”
The family, Eddie says, is hoping that they can reach law enforcement to see if they will ask questions about Andy too.
It has been over seven months since the family last heard from Andy, who said he was in Cananea, Sonora and would cross soon.
I ask Eddie what they’re hoping to find out.
“Hearing some news, good or bad, would be some relief.”