Kidnappings Commonplace in Mexico

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2008 03:04 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The number of kidnappings for ransom in Mexico is on an alarming rise — and the victims are not always well-to-do businessmen.

According to official statistics, about 65 people are kidnapped each month, but the actual tally is probably far higher because many families avoid reporting abductions to the police. One Mexican crime institute recently said that the number is likely more than 500 kidnappings a month.

Among the captives, at least 60 have been killed since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Businessmen increasingly travel with bodyguards, and children in affluent neighborhoods attend classes behind what The Times calls “Ft. Knox-like security.”

But kidnapping victims have run the full gamut of Mexican society, with some working-class families paying as little as $500 to have a loved one returned.

A report in the Mexican newspaper Milenio disclosed that according to federal statistics, only 1 in 8 kidnapping victims was a business executive.

“They call it an elitist crime because only the rich get kidnapped, but that’s not true,” Alfredo Neme Martinez, who heads a national association of merchants, told The Times. “They’ll kidnap you for $1,000 or $2,000.”

Kidnapping furor came to the fore last month when 14-year-old Fernando Marti was found dead after his wealthy family paid kidnappers millions of dollars for his release.

The kidnapping may have involved police, according to The Times, “stoking a long-held suspicion that law enforcement officers are more a problem than a cure.”

On Sunday, more than 100,000 Mexicans marched in Mexico City to express their anger over the daily kidnappings and killings.

President Calderon acknowledged that the rise in violence “is a consequence of the gradual and growing disintegration of public and governmental institutions,” saying that “in many places authorities have been overwhelmed by delinquency and crime.”

Some officials in Mexico believe the rise in kidnappings may be a consequence of Calderon’s crackdown on drug traffickers, which has made it more difficult to smuggle drugs into the U.S. and prompted gangs to find other sources of income.

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