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Ad for a missing American son draws 200 calls

From his home in El Paso, Texas, Jaime Hervella has mixed emotions about the search being conducted on the Ortiz ranch south of Jurez, He believes that his godson, Saul Sanchez Jr., is among the bodies to be found on the ranch.

But part of him still doesn't want to accept that Mr. Sanchez, a US Navy veteran and electronic surveillance expert hired by the Mexican federal police, is dead. All he knows is that on May 24, 1994, Sanchez disappeared on the way home to his young son's birthday.

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"We went to the Mexican authorities, and there was no one there that gave a hoot about our dear one," says Mr. Hervella, Sanchez's godfather and an El Paso business consultant. "The authorities took it that anything to do with the drug cartels isn't going to be solved anyway, so you can avoid the obligation to investigate."

After months of wrangling with Mexican authorities, Hervella and the Sanchez family decided to place an ad in the local newspaper, asking if other citizens had lost loved ones. The next day, they got 100 calls; the day after, they got 100 more. Today, Hervella's organization, the International Association of Relatives and Friends of Disappeared Persons, counts 196 persons who disappeared in Jurez, 18 of them American citizens.

Hervella credits his group with forcing Mexican government to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the disappearances, and with getting the FBI involved. "The only reason they had a prosecutor is because of us," he says. FBI agents have called the Sanchez family for Saul's dental records. "I know they are in there," he says.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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