Posted: May 17, 2012 11:42 PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 6:33 AM
MCALLEN - A Rio Grande Valley businessman says he doesn't know if the drug cartels will come after him again. They've already kidnapped him once.
The man we'll call "Antonio" still has scars from the kidnapping. He still relives the nightmare of his 48 hours in hell.
Ever since he was six years old, all he wanted to do was work with his father. "He always knows how to do things and how to solve them," says "Antonio."
That dream became a reality when he was 28 years old. The dream job became a nightmare on his second day on the job.
"I was in Reynosa getting the permits. My dad told one of the workers, 'Go with him. Take my truck, so you could get the permit.' I remember I passed this red truck at the stop light, and the guy gave a sign with his hand and pulled in front of us. One of the trucks in the back had cop lights and pulled us over. It was really fast. It was, 'Get down. Get down' with guns. They put something on my head; I don't know what they put so I could see dark," says "Antonio."
He says at least 10 men were in the group that kidnapped him. "They said they were the Zetas. They took me to some kind of house. They sat me down, took my wallet. They saw I was the son. They weren't expecting the son to be there," he says.
Just then, "Antonio's" father called to find out why he was so late coming back home. The kidnappers grabbed the phone and started blackmailing his father.
"I was there two days exactly. They would tell me stories of how they cut people's hands or throats. I still had the black blindfold, and they would put the gun right here on the temple. And I could feel it. It felt scary. You're talking about a gun in the head, and you don't know if they're going to do something. I have a friend they took away his finger and sent it to his dad. That was in Monterrey. It's very surreal, very like you don't know what's going to happen. I try to listen as much as I can to the noises. I know there was a train close. They would sell waters outside. I could hear them listening to movies, watching concerts," says "Antonio."
His father tried hard to get "Antonio" home. The kidnappers kept asking until they knew Antonio's father had no more money to give. "I'm pretty sure it was close to half a million (dollars)," says "Antonio."
The 48 hours of Hell finally ended.
"It was the first time I saw the sun in three days. I was like, 'Thank God,' when they got me in the truck. I had no shoes or socks. They took my glasses, my wallet. 'When we let you go, you will not turn around to see the truck. You will not see the plate. We will come back for you. It will be over for you.' I walked to the gas station and my dad was there," says "Antonio."
The international bridge to the United States and to safety was just a few minutes away. But the freedom came with a price.
"I started drinking a lot. I got divorced. I was afraid of the dark. If, if I slept, I had to sleep with the light on. It mentally affects you in every way. I separated from my whole family. I didn't want to know anything about this business. I hid myself behind it. My dad went into a depression. It damaged him. We didn't want to continue. He didn't want to deal with Mexico," says "Antonio."
His family tried to help him deal with his new demons. "It hasn't been the same; it's been very surreal. I feel stronger, and I don't want to go through it again," says "Antonio."
He's now back at the family business. His father is very sick.
"It's my dad's. It's my family. It's what we've done. He made this happen. We need to make this business grow again," says "Antonio."
He and his family still have to deal with the cartels. Customs officers recently found drugs in fake cucumbers in semi-trucks headed into the Valley. Antonio worries his trucks are targets too.
He says trucking meat into Mexico is a risk. Meat is a high-value product. It ends up in meat markets across Mexico. The cartels sell the meat for a much higher price. Three of his company trucks have already been hijacked.
The danger isn't just across the bridge on the Mexican side though. "Those people cross over. One of my friends, he has a warehouse too in Reynosa. They told him, 'You need to pay up. We are right outside your house. We know where your kids go to school. We know everything about you,'" says "Antonio."
He tell us cartels are extorting people in the U.S. "They don't care," he adds.
He's also worried that the cartel could come to kidnap him on the U.S. side of the border. Because he can't control the cartels, he's controlling what he does. He's being more cautious. But "Antonio" says he won't live in fear.