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FBI offers $40,000 reward for American who went missing while walking her dog in Mexico

The FBI has offered a $40,000 reward for information leading to the location of an American woman who went missing in Mexico more than three months ago.

Authorities hope to generate additional tips and information on the disappearance of Monica de Leon Barba, 29, who was last seen on Nov. 29 walking her dog home from work in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, Mexico.  De Leon is from San Mateo, California, CBS Bay Area reports.

"If you have any information that could help us find Monica, please contact law enforcement," the FBI San Francisco office tweeted.

De Leon was headed to a gym between 5-6 p.m. called Fit 4 Life in the Guadalupe Fraction when she was forced into a van "leaving the poor puppy alone in the street," her family and friends said on a community Facebook page dedicated to finding the missing woman. 

"I can't help but think of the absolute fear and agony she has faced for the last 121 days,"  her brother Gustavo De Leon said in a statement on the page. He said his sister was abducted from their hometown and that a head of state that "allows kidnapping of any kind under their watch must answer and provide their aid in bringing my sister home."

Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, in part due to the organization and opportunism of Mexican criminal enterprises, according to research from Global Guardian, a security risk intelligence firm. Virtual and express kidnapping are widespread in Mexico, they found, and are often done for financial extortion, robberies or ransoms.

Monica de Leon Barba, who was last seen walking her dog home from work in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, Mexico, has been missing since November 2022. Photo via Facebook

Officials have not said if they have any suspects or leads but former Western District of Texas U.S. Marshal Robert Almonte says kidnappings are the "bread and butter" of drug cartels. 

Almonte, who also spent 25 years at the El Paso police department conducting undercover narcotics investigations, said cartels routinely kidnap and extort local businesses. The cartels then demand funds from the families — a tactic that he said is part of Mexican cartel "culture." 

Almonte said that kidnappings are on the rise because cartels they "feel emboldened," while the relationship between Mexican and U.S. law enforcement has deteriorated.

"It's getting worse because the Mexican government can not get control of the cartels," he says. "The U.S. is going to get the brunt of that."

De Leon's brother posted a statement yesterday pleading for his sister's safe return, saying, "we cannot allow this to be the status quo and I will not allow my sister to become another statistic of cowardice and inaction in politics."

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