More than a month after a 63-year-old US citizen was kidnapped from her home in Mexico, the FBI has announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.
Maria del Carmen Lopez was kidnapped February 9 in Pueblo Nuevo, a municipality in the southwestern Mexican state of Colima, the FBI’s Los Angeles field office said in a release Thursday.
Lopez is also a Mexican citizen, according to a statement from the Colima Attorney General’s office, which said it is working with the FBI on the investigation.
Though the FBI did not share details on the case, it described Lopez as having blonde hair, brown eyes and tattooed eyeliner.
Federal authorities don’t believe drug cartels were involved in the kidnapping, the FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office Donald Alway told CNN. The agency has witness accounts confirming Lopez was kidnapped, Alway said, but didn’t share other details about the case.
“We are going to pursue this, and we’ll look at every avenue and we’ll follow every lead and we’ll open every door that we can find to ensure that our primary goal is to get her back safely,” he added.
The FBI’s announcement comes nearly two weeks after the violent kidnapping of four Americans in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, two of whom were killed, and three weeks after the disappearance of three women who crossed into Mexico to sell clothes at a flea market.
The investigation into Lopez’s disappearance was opened by the Colima Attorney General’s Office on the day of the suspected kidnapping and the Mexican Attorney General’s Specialized Prosecutor for Organized Crime has since requested to take the case, the statement from Colima authorities said.
The Colima prosecutor’s office said it has shared information with Mexican federal authorities and has also collaborated with US agencies “seeking to clarify the facts and safeguard the integrity of the victim.”
The FBI encouraged anyone with information about where Lopez may be located to contact their local FBI office, submit a tip online or reach out to the nearest American embassy or consulate.
CNN has reached out to the FBI for additional information.
In all, more than 100,00 Mexicans and migrants are missing across the country, leaving their families no explanation and little solace. The Mexican government’s quick response to recent disappearances of Americans has raised eyebrows among some who criticize officials for lacking such prompt reactions in a slew of domestic cases.
Lopez’s daughter is pleading for information on her mother’s whereabouts after being gone for more than a month.
Lopez moved to Mexico after she retired and was living “a quiet life back in their homeland,” her daughter, Zonia Lopez, told CNN. Her mother never expressed any concerns for her safety while living in Mexico, she added.
When asked if a ransom was demanded, Zonia said she could not share too much information because it is “still an open investigation.”
Zonia said she learned about her mother’s disappearance after getting a call from her sisters who said their father was told in a phone call that Lopez was kidnapped. Her family reached out to the embassy, who connected them with the FBI, Zonia said.
“It’s a horrible feeling not knowing if she is okay, not knowing where she’s at or who has her,” Zonia said. “We’re literally powered by the strength that we know she has and the love that she has for us, and we are literally holding on to a thread of hope.”
Zonia said she remains hopeful and her mother’s “vibrant attitude and her outlook on life” keeps her family going.
“We will not stop until we have answers, and we are making sure that this gets enough attention so that other families, along with ours, get some kind of information, some kind of closure to this,” Zonia said.
While the FBI and Mexican authorities work to find her mother, Lopez offered a message to the person or people responsible for her kidnapping: “Please give her back. We need our mom.”