The kidnapping of a U.S. Marine corporal and Iraq War veteran has received scant attention since he was taken from a Mexican ranch with his father and uncle two month ago.
But that may be about to change.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, who led the way in freeing jailed U.S. Marine Jon Hammar, held on bogus gun charges in Mexico, told Fox News Latino she plans to step up political pressure to make sure Armando Torres III's case is solved quickly.
“Right now our plan of action is that next week we're going to take to the House floor,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “So we're going to step it up a notch. We tried the quiet way, and now we're going to raise the profile of this case.”
Meanwhile, the FBI has told the family to prepare for the worst. It is widely believed Torres and members of his family were taken by drug cartel members.
“There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my brother, and he's always on my mind,” Cristina Torres, Armando’s sister, told Fox News Latino. “I wouldn't wish it on anyone else. It's very hard. I just want my brother back.”
Torres, 24, is the backbone of her family, she said. His mother has an alter with old photos and lit candles in the home to remind her not to give up searching for her son -- though the family fights off the grim reality that he may be dead.
Corporal Torres, a 25-year-old Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009, crossed the border into Mexico on May 14th near Progresso, Texas to visit his father’s ranch in La Barranca, Mexico. On that day, eyewitnesses told the Torres family several men stormed into the home and forced Torres, his father, Armando Torres II, and his uncle, Salvador Torres, into a white truck.
On June 11, twelve Congressional representatives wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding help. Both Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, and President Barack Obama have been briefed on the case. In fact, 165 Central American kidnapped migrants were freed in Tamaulipas state as a direct result of Mexican police action associated with the search of the three missing family members.
The Torres family believes Corporal Torres just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – stuck in the middle of a land dispute over the ranch. Mexican cartels are known for land grabs along the border and use the area to grow drugs and smuggle them across the border.
“In that area, in Tamaulipus, we've seen a mafia war going on between two very violent cartels, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. These used to be groups that were aligned with each other,” Andrew Selee, vice president for programs at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told Fox News Latino. “The Zetas were the hitmen for the gulf cartel and the two groups split a couple of years ago, they've been fighting for control for the smuggling routes of Tamaulipus, and it's a very violent conflict.”
Selee said the chances that Torres is still alive are not good but there is always the possibility that those who kidnapped him may realize he’s a U.S. marine and they’ve made a mistake. After all, he said, kidnapping decisions, “are often made by low-level operatives in one of the mafia groups.”
Torres is a father of two boys and served as a mechanic in Iraq working on humvees for more than 14 hours a day, fellow marines said. Messages of support from the U.S. Marines community through a Facebook group called “Get Our Brother Back” have provided the family hope and strength over the last two months.
“I don't think I'm going to stop looking till, until I find something, at least until we recover a body or something,” Cristina Torres said of her brother. “But until then, my brother is still alive.”
Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC) and a reporter for Fox News Latino (FNL). Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas