Letters To The Editor - October 19, 2019

Dear Sir,

This letter is to warn anyone crossing the border between Mexico and the United States at Laredo, Texas to be extremely careful.

Recently, I drove from Laredo over the bridge to the customs office in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas at 4 a.m. Before the crossing I had arranged to have a Mexican friend who is bilingual meet me at the Customs office to assist me in communicating with the officials. My friend said the taxi driver who took him there from his hotel had warned that we should not leave the Customs office at night because Nuevo Laredo was too dangerous.

At the Customs office, a Mexican soldier guarding the facility reiterated that warning to my friend, adding that once we left Customs we should trust no one, not pick up any hitchhikers and not go into the city – just leave as quickly as possible. The soldier even warned us not to drive to Banjercito to get our vehicle permit but rather to walk from the Customs area to the bank using their connecting entrances.

At Banjercito, the woman at the desk echoed the same warnings. Because of these warnings we parked my car inside the Customs area for an hour and a half awaiting daylight. At about 6 a.m., while still dark, another vehicle pulled up next to me in the parking area. The driver and passenger had crossed at that location numerous times in the past but not recently. They asked if we wanted to caravan with them to provide some semblance of safety to our journey, since we were going the same direction. We agreed but told them of the warnings that we had received about traveling in the dark. The driver said he experienced problems both in the dark and during the day, so he felt 6 a.m. was as good of a time as any to get going.

Naively, I assumed that his experience and the fact that we were caravanning would provide us with safety. Suffice it to say that immediately upon leaving the Customs area (within 50 meters) we were stopped by a group of young men and robbed at gunpoint. The persons in the other vehicle were also robbed.

These bandidos were obviously experienced because they knew that most people hold back a secret stash of money just in case they are robbed. They put a gun to my head and said they were going to search us and the car and if they found even one more dollar, they would kill us. And, yes, we had a “secret stash,” so we gave them everything!

Everyone in Nuevo Laredo seemed to know about these criminals but no one attempts to stop them. Obviously the town is completely in the hands of a cartel.

Avoid this place at all costs.  I’m sure that it is safer during daylight hours but even then you must drive down a very narrow, one-way street to exit Customs and these thieves didn’t seem to have any concern about getting caught. Since arriving back in Mexico, I’ve heard similar stories from several people who also crossed at Laredo.

Michael Cienfuego