Relatives mourn victims of a Zetas cartel attack in Monterrey, Mexico, REUTERS/Daniel Becerril -
Daniela was a 22-year-old seamstress working to feed her children and her mother in Nicaragua when, in 2008, the drug wars that were ravaging Mexico and other Central American countries arrived at her door. She was attending a meeting about receiving a loan with some 15 other young women near the border of Honduras when armed men from the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico took all of their identification cards, gave them identical clothes, and forced them into a van, kidnapping them.
Daniela told VICE that she was driven north into Mexico, forced to work at a brothel, and then was taken to a large house with a cellar in northern Mexico where she remembers seeing five other young women bound to pillars, surrounded by men who had paid to rape and torture them. She was held in Nuevo Laredo, a town near Texas, and was forced to work as a dancer and prostitute at a club frequented by U.S. tourists, and then as a drug smuggler. When she was taken as a sex slave by one Zeta leader, the cartel put a chip in her foot to be able to geo-locate her.
“I saw lots of people die, and die in horrible ways,” she said. “I want to talk because people have to know what is happening on the border to the girls who are disappeared, and with lots of the girls who are working in the sex trade in narco areas.”
Eventually, somebody risked their life to help Daniela escape, she says, though she won’t give any other details about the escape.
“They got me out of the place, they paid my transport to Mexico City,” she told VICE. “If I say more they will kill that person, and I would never forgive myself.”