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Supporters of man missing in Mexico say help needed

Supporters of man missing in Mexico say help needed Marc Menard is shown in a handout photo taken from a Facebook page. Menard was returning to Canada in a vehicle when he vanished somewhere in northern Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

MONTREAL - Friends and relatives of a Quebec man who mysteriously vanished while driving home from Mexico 10 months ago are still holding out hope he is alive.

But Marc Menard's loved ones say they need more help on the ground in a very dangerous part of Mexico if they're ever to find out what happened to the husband and father after he disappeared en route to the U.S. border.

"It's the uncertainty of not knowing," said Jonathan Menard, the 45-year-old man's only sibling. "Is he alive? What did they do with him? Is he eating? Is he drinking?"

Marc Menard, a bus driver from the Montreal-area community of Laval, was described as a bon vivant who liked to travel and wanted to keep doing so while he was still in excellent health.

He was in love with Mexico. He married there and often vacationed in the country in recent years.

This time, he decided to stay for an extended period, coinciding his trip with the celebrations to mark the end of the Mayan calendar. Some of the distinctive tattoos that adorn his body were depictions of the calendar and of pyramids.

He left Canada in December 2012 and was driving back home after three months of travelling through Mexico and Guatemala by car. His plan was to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at the notoriously dangerous town of Nuevo Laredo, a haven of drug cartel violence.

The state of Tamaulipas, which is home to Nuevo Laredo, is marred by drug-related violence and is subject to a Canadian government warning against non-essential travel. It's home to Los Zetas, arguably Mexico's most feared drug cartel.

In Matehuala, about 500 kilometres south of the border, Menard last spoke with a family member, using Skype, on March 14, 2013. He was seeking veterinary care for his basset hound, Maya, before crossing into the United States.

There is no record of Menard ever making it across the border.

Maya was discovered in the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo and has since been returned to Quebec. Menard's vehicle, a white Pontiac van, was recovered.

But none of Menard’s personal possessions were found, including a laptop — his only link to home. The French-speaking Menard was travelling without a cellphone and speaks only minimal English and Spanish.

Supporters say a handful of people involved in the sale of the vehicle have been charged, but the trail ends there.

"We know he was kidnapped, but for the rest, we're unaware," Jonathan Menard said in a telephone interview.

Supporters are hoping to elicit the help of Canadian politicians. A petition is circulating with the hope that Menard's MP will present it in the House of Commons.

Alexandra Deziel, a family friend, says the petition calls on the federal government to appeal to Interpol so the international organization can ask questions about Menard's disappearance and conduct a proper search.

Deziel is one of a small group of friends to have worked tirelessly to find Menard by creating an online buzz through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Deziel, who has known Menard for about a decade, said dealing with the Mexican authorities has been frustrating.

"The communication with the authorities of Mexico is nightmarish," she said, adding that's why they need help. Menard's name appears with 6,100 others on the Mexican attorney general's website of missing people.

None of his friends believe Menard would voluntarily vanish.

"Absolutely not," said Deziel. "It's totally out of character. If he's still there, it's because he can't get out."

She tears up when asked about the kind of man Menard is.

"You meet him one time and you never forget this guy — he never has anything bad to say about anything, he always sees the good in everything and that's why he ended up in this situation, always thinking that everybody is good," said Deziel.

"He's very generous, very genuine and loves his friends."

Not having answers has weighed heavily on Menard's family and friends.

"There are moments that are very difficult, but we have a good group-support system, we are the same people since the beginning and we talk to each other every single day and help each other through this," said Deziel.

"We keep in mind that what Marc is going through is far, far worse."

The Foreign Affairs Department says it is keeping tabs on the situation.

"Canadian officials have been in contact with the family of a Canadian citizen who has been reported as missing in Mexico and stand ready to provide further consular assistance," said spokesman Mathieu Roy in an email. "Canadian officials continue to liaise with local authorities."

From his home north of Montreal, Jonathan Menard says he feels powerless and frustrated with the lack of information. His mother has made him promise he won't go and put his life in danger, but the younger Menard says he's ready to go in an instant.

He also remains committed to getting answers.

"I'd get on a plane tomorrow to go and get my brother, but I don't know where he is," he says.

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