(CTN News) – Eight months after her disappearance, Monica de Leon Barba, a California woman kidnapped while walking her dog in Mexico, has been released by her captors.
The FBI announced the news in a statement over the weekend, expressing their relief and joy at her safe return. The process of reuniting her with her family and dog was underway at the time of the announcement.
Background: Cartel Violence and Kidnappings in Mexico
In November, de Leon Barba was abducted in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, a state plagued by cartel violence. Recent events, such as the explosive attack in Guadalajara, which resulted in 10 injuries and the deaths of three law enforcement agents, highlight the grave situation in the region.
Breaking | Monica De Leon Barba safe, en route to U.S. after being released by captors in Mexico.
— FBI SanFrancisco (@FBISanFrancisco) July 15, 2023
The CJNG (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación), headquartered in Jalisco, is considered by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the world’s most dangerous transnational organizations.
The cartel is responsible for significant violence, loss of life in Mexico, and the trafficking of drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States.
Kidnappings and Disappearances in the Area
Kidnappings have become all too common in the area, with recent reports indicating the abduction of journalists in neighboring states. The case of de Leon Barba adds to the alarming statistics of disappearances and missing persons in Mexico.
Advocacy groups have noted that over 100,000 people have been “disappeared and missing” in Mexico since records began.
Additionally, approximately 21,000 children are kidnapped each year for sexual exploitation, according to a 2022 report by the U.S. Department of State on human rights practices in Mexico.
The FBI Investigation and Ongoing Search for Captors
Months after de Leon Barba’s disappearance, the FBI launched an investigation and offered a reward of $40,000 for information leading to her recovery.
The bureau released surveillance videos of her kidnapping, which showed several individuals forcing her into a gray Volkswagen Jetta.
Five suspects, wearing nondescript clothing, were identified from the footage, but no arrests have been made yet. The FBI stated that the investigation into the identity of her captors remains ongoing.
Conclusion: Relief and Continuing Efforts
Robert K. Tripp, the special agent in charge of de Leon Barba’s case, expressed profound relief and joy at her safe return, acknowledging that the FBI investigation is far from over.
While her reunion with her family brings solace, the authorities remain dedicated to pursuing justice and bringing her captors to account.
The case highlights the urgent need to address the escalating crisis of violence, kidnappings, and disappearances in Mexico.