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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

December 16, 2020
Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, became one of Mexico's most fearless activists for missing children after the disappearance of her daughter Karen Alejandra Salinas Rodriguez in 2012 ©Facebook

A mother whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered by a Mexican drug cartel spent years stalking and hunting down her child's captors in a dangerous - and ultimately fatal - mission mirroring the plot of 2008 film Taken.

Miriam Elizabeth Rodríguez Martínez of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, became one of Mexico's most fearless activists for missing children after the disappearance of her daughter Karen Alejandra Salinas Rodriguez in 2012.

Her tireless pursuit resulted in the take down of at least 10 criminals, before she was murdered herself outside her home in 2017.

Karen, 20, was abducted in the northeastern Mexican city on January 23, 2012, after a group of armed men from the Los Zeta Cartel forced their way into her car and took off with her inside.

Her captors later demanded thousands of dollars in ransom payments in exchange for her return, but despite the family's compliance, Karen was murdered and her remains were found on an abandoned ranch in 2014.

In the years following Karen's abduction and subsequent death, Miriam took matters into her own hands, going to extreme lengths to pursue her daughter's killers across the country and even on the other side of the border in Texas.

Using various disguises, a fake handgun and false identification, the mother managed to locate and interrogate several members of the Los Zetas cartel, one of the most dangerous and violent in the country.

Among her targets was a young florist who she had been chasing for year and tracking down online, after learning the man had sold flowers on the street before joining the cartel, The New York Times reported.

After receiving a call from a tipster about his whereabouts, Miriam, armed with a gun, located the man among a group of vendors near the Mexican-US border, selling sunglasses.

The man recognized her and ran, but the 56-year-old managed to catch up to him and tackle him.

'If you move, I'll shoot you,' she told him while holding up a gun. She detained him for nearly an hour until authorities arrived to arrest him, according to the paper.

Miriam was responsible for taking down at least ten criminals during her unrelenting pursuit - a feat even local authorities would consider extremely daunting.

Her investigation led to the arrests of several men involved in the cartel, including Cristian Jose Zapata Gonzalez, who was only 18 at the time.

At one point, she even sat down with one of the men, who insisted the cartel did not have her daughter, yet offered to help locate her for $2,000.

As she pleaded with him for Karen's release, she heard someone on his radio call him by name - Sama.

With a new lead, Miriam scoured social media for hours where she ultimately found a tagged photo of Sama next to a woman wearing a uniform for an ice cream shop in Ciudad Victoria, two hours away.

She then stalked the store for weeks, learning the woman's schedule and waiting for Sama to show up. When he arrived, she followed their pair to their home, taking note of their address.

Fearing she would be recognized, Miriam dyed her hair red and wore a uniform she had kept from her old job at the Health Ministry, which she used to go around conducting a fake poll of the neighborhood to obtain further details of her target.

She eventually found a police officer willing to join her in her mission, but by the time an arrest warrant was issued, Sama had left town.

It wasn't until September 2014 that Miriam's son Luis, who had a shop in Ciudad Victoria, spotted Sama at his store looking at hats.

The police was called and arrested Sama, who eventually coughed up details surrounding Karen's murder, including the names and locations of his accomplices.

Miriam's efforts to avenge her daughter's death eventually led to her own demise, however.

She was killed on Mother's Day in 2017 after she was shot 12 times outside of her home.

Her husband found her body on the street, with her hand inside her purse, next to her pistol.

The mother is now regarded as a heroine in her city, where organized crime often goes unchecked.

An officer who had assisted Miriam in her mission recalled viewing the files of her independent investigation, which he said was like nothing he had ever seen.

'The details and information gathered by this woman, working all alone, were incredible', the officer, who chose to remain anonymous, told the NYT.

'She had gone to every single level of government and they had slammed the door in her face,' he said.

'To help her hunt down the people who took her daughter — it was the greatest privilege of my career.'

Her dogged mission, which took place in an area where organized crime often goes unchecked, is reminiscent to that of Liam Neeson's character in action-thriller film Taken, in which he tracks down his daughter after she is kidnapped by traffickers in France.

Miriam would later form a non-governmental group of 600 families working to find their missing relatives, which is now run by her surviving son Luis.


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