The little hope that the relatives of eight people disappeared in the Mexican state of Jalisco had of finding them alive was completely diluted this Tuesday.
Forensic tests concluded that the human remains found in 45 bags on May 31 in a ravine on the outskirts of the city of Guadalajara correspond to the young men.
The news could have gone almost unnoticed in a country unfortunately bled dry by the at least 110,000 disappearances that its official records reflect. However, this case drew attention from the start for several reasons.
First, the fact that the disappearances became known gradually in a short space of time. The second, that they were all work colleagues in a call center in the municipality of Zapopan.
And it is their occupation in this telephone service space that focuses the investigations to deal with to clarify what happened.
The authorities' main hypothesis points to the fact that elderly foreign citizens were allegedly defrauded from the premises through telephone calls for the fraudulent sale of tourist apartments.
The benefits they obtained served as a source of financing for some organized crime group, with special suspicions towards the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel (CJNG).
Some parents of the young people, however, assured that they were not know nothing of these alleged illegal activities and asked the authorities not to criminalize their children beforehand, who told them that they were selling vacation packages to tourists.
The eight workers
The investigation began on the past 20 May 31-year-old Carlos Benjamín García disappeared. His mother told the newspaper El Heraldo de Mexico that that day was the last time she spoke to him on the phone as he was getting ready to go to the laundry.
Not being able to communicate again since then, he tried to speak with Itzel Abigail Valladolid, a friend and colleague of her son, to ask if she knew of his whereabouts. But he didn't manage to talk to her either.
It was then that he decided to call the young woman's mother, who to his surprise confirmed that both her 27-year-old daughter and Carlos David, another of her 23-year-old sons, had also been missing since May 22.
That day was also the last in which Jesus Alfredo Salazar and Arturo Robles, aged 37 and 30, were seen; Mayra Karina Velazquez, 29 years old; and Jorge Miguel Moreno, 28; whose disappearances were reported to the authorities on successive days.
On June 1, the State Prosecutor's Office learned of the disappearance of 34-year-old Juan Antonio Estrada. The man also disappeared on May 22 when he was going to work and it was considered that he could be related to the same case.
When the authorities verified the common link between all of them, they went to search the establishment where they worked .
The Jalisco Prosecutor's Office reported that inside they found marijuana, a piece of cloth and a mop with “reddish stains”. They also found blackboards with the names of foreigners, “membership notes or ‘timeshares’ (tourist accommodation to use during a period of each year) and economic goals to be achieved”.
He also declared that the premises did not have a license for any type of activity. The Prosecutor's Office also announced that the tenant of the property is being sought, although so far no arrests have been reported in this case.
A second place with similar characteristics was later registered as the supposed operations center of the same company, where machines for counting money and “annotations of pre-designed dialogues in English were identified to make phone calls to people foreigners”.
While the search for the young men continued, official information about the alleged activities they were engaged in arrived trickily.
On May 29, Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro acknowledged that the case was “ ;much more complex than it seemed” and he ruled out that it was a call center but rather “ an operations center of a different nature”
But in a statement, the state government went further and revealed what is considered the main line of investigation: that the case could be linked to companies that carry out fraud aimed at elderly Americans through the sale of “timeshares” on the coast of Jalisco.
State authorities pointed to the possible relationship with the companies that were identified at the end of April in a report published by the United States. In it, the Treasury Department exposed a business network in Jalisco connected to the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel and dedicated to telephone scams as a source of financing for the criminal group.
According to the report, a cell established in the touristic municipality of Puerto Vallarta would be specialized in deceiving older Americans, making them believe that they were buying or renting houses for their vacations in Mexico.
Asked about whether the CJNG would be involved in the case, Icela avoided pointing to a specific authorship. “We are seeing which group it corresponds to. I can't tell you that until we have evidence of the investigation," she replied.
Until now, no authority has officially pointed to the cartel led by El Mencho. The Jalisco governor limited himself to saying that this is a matter “which obviously involves organized crime”, for which reason communication is maintained both with the federal government and with US authorities.
Uncertainties about why the eight young men disappeared continue being many, almost as many as the hypotheses.
Sources from the Mural media, from Grupo Reforma, assured that the case could have been a retaliation from the CJNG, considering that their frauds would have been exposed in the EE report Thanks to information from the call center in Zapopan.
According to US officials consulted by the newspaper Milenio, however, the young men may have disappeared because they tried to stop working for the company. By doing so, the cartel would like to be sending a warning message to other people who collaborate with them in timeshare fraud schemes.
Among all these investigations and hypotheses, When 45 bags with human remains were located on the outskirts of Guadalajara on May 31, the Prosecutor's Office reported that some of the remains coincided in physical characteristics with those of the disappeared youth.
However, it was necessary to wait for studies by the Forensic Institute to confirm his identity, which ended up happening this Tuesday after more than two weeks of anguish.
Now, the relatives demand that responsibilities be cleared up and those who ended the lives of their children be found in a country where more than 90% of reported cases go unpunished.