Federal police patrol the streets of Apatzingan, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. Federal forces struggled to bring order to western Mexico as vigilantes battled a drug cartel. The unrest is in a region of Michoacan known as Tierra Caliente, a farming area where vigilante groups have been trying to drive out the Knights Templar drug cartel. After a weekend of firefights, the government announced Monday that it would take on security duties in the area. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)AP2014
MORELIA, Mexico (AP) – Police are investigating the disappearance of a U.S. man traveling across Latin America by motorcycle who went missing after visiting a friend in Mexico's western state of Michoacán, where rural vigilantes are battling a cult-like drug cartel, authorities said Monday.
Officials began investigating Harry Devert's disappearance Wednesday, when a Mexican friend reported him missing, said Magdalena Guzmán Rosas, a spokeswoman for Michoacán state prosecutors.
Guzman said Devert arrived at the friend's home in Zitacuaro on Jan. 22 and spent three days there. The friend told investigators that Devert left on Jan. 25, saying he was headed to the Pacific resort city of Zihuatanejo.
Devert's girlfriend called his Mexican friend two days later to say she was worried because he hadn't been in touch. The friend then went to the city of Uruapan, also in Michoacán state, to check a report of a man who had been in an accident and was in a coma. He went to police when he realized the man at a Uruapan hospital wasn't Devert, Guzmán said.
Devert, 32, of Pelham, New York, wrote earlier about the planned trip on his blog, "A New Yorker Travels," saying he hoped to go to Brazil for the World Cup.
Devert's mother, Ann Devert, said she last heard from him on Jan. 25 when he sent a text message saying he was getting a military escort out of an area deemed dangerous by the U.S. State Department. The same message said, "I'm running way late because of all the crazy military stuff."
Ann Devert said her son texted that he would call her later that night, when he hoped to arrive to his destination.
"How I feel varies minute to minute. I'm numb, I'm exhausted," she said. "I still feel optimistic."
Her son used to be a stock trader and had planned to trade on the Internet while he traveled to support his adventures, but he discovered Internet service wasn't reliable and he would get cut off in the middle of a trade, his mother said.
"He calls the world his home," Ann Devert said.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City "is aware of reports that Mr. Devert has disappeared in Mexico and is concerned for his safety."
"We are actively working with the Mexican authorities to locate Mr. Devert," it added.
To travel from Zitacuaro to Zihuatanejo, Devert would have traversed an embattled area in Michoacán and Guerrero states where in the last year "self-defense" groups have formed to fight against drug traffickers.