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A relative of a missing person walks next to a banner with the pictures of missing people as she takes part in the first independent field search in the surroundings of the Monterrey-Saltillo highway in Monterrey, Mexico in October 2015. Photo: Julio Cesar Aguilar/AFP via Getty Images

At least 50 people are missing in Mexico after embarking on three-hour car trips between the industrial hub of Monterrey and the border city of Nuevo Laredo, a stretch of road local media have called "the highway of death," AP reports.

The big picture: About a half-dozen men have reappeared alive, beaten, saying only that armed men forced them to stop on the highway and took their vehicles, per AP.

  • What happened to the others remains a mystery. About half a dozen of those who are missing are believed to be U.S. citizens or residents, per AP.
  • The government of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located, did not warn people against traveling on the highway until June 23, after receiving dozens of reports of missing travelers for more than a month.
  • The governments of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, where Nuevo Laredo is located, announced Friday a joint program to increase policing and security on the highway, "a step that, if it had been carried out a month earlier, might have saved dozens of lives," per AP.
  • Angelica Orozco, a member of the civic group United Forces for Our Disappeared, said the disappearances are reminiscent of worst days of Mexico’s drug war, like in 2011 when cartel gunmen in the state of Tamaulipas dragged innocent passengers off buses.

What they're saying: “Now, more than 10 years after the disappearances in 2010 and 2011, they cannot continue to use the same pretexts,” Orozco said.

  • But “they’re using the same lines. … In the last decade they were supposed to have created institutions and procedures, but it’s the same old story of authorities doing nothing,” Orozco said.
  • “Only now is the National Guard going out to patrol the highway. Why did they wait so long?” said Karla Moreno, whose husband, Artemio Moreno, disappeared on the road on April 13. “How can this be happening? We were supposed to have more (law enforcement) resources by now.”

Go deeper

Kate Marino, author of Markets
57 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Small businesses see hiring as No. 1 worry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Almost every small business owner in a Goldman Sachs survey is having trouble hiring — and two-thirds think the federal government has done too little to ease their hiring, supply-chain and inflation worries.

Why it matters: The Goldman Sachs research gives a vivid window into the continuing headwinds and hardship for entrepreneurs.