Thursday, September 4, 2008

Who is Kidnapping Mexicans?


"Abduction fears stir outcry in Mexicol; 'Elitist crime' crosses classes" by Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times | September 4, 2008

MEXICO CITY - Perhaps nothing reveals this country's dread of kidnapping better than one product now offered by a Mexican company: a tiny transmitter that is implanted under the skin to beam the person's whereabouts to a satellite.

CUI BONO, cha-ching?

Employing more conventional safeguards, businessmen travel with bodyguards, and children in tony neighborhoods attend classes behind Fort Knox-like security. The insurance industry has pondered whether to offer kidnapping protection.

Although the country's drug violence makes headlines abroad, Mexicans are far more preoccupied with the kidnapping problem, among the world's worst. Its frequency and variety, including "express" and "virtual" kidnappings, have made it a kind of national plague, one with unusual political resonance.

The growing outcry over kidnappings - with calls to reinstate the death penalty for such cases and marches nationwide Saturday that drew massive crowds - prompted political leaders to hurriedly convene in the National Palace last month to approve a high-profile plan against organized crime. A number of the provisions targeted abductions, including a request for more federal prisons, with areas reserved for kidnappers.

See: Mexicans Protest CIA Drug Running Operation

The abduction anxieties run across a surprisingly wide swath of society. There have been cases in which working-class families were ordered to cough up as little as $500 to get a relative back.

A report by the daily Milenio newspaper said a review of federal statistics showed that only 1 in 8 kidnapping victims was a business executive. Half were roughly in the middle class or below, the newspaper reported. "They call it an elitist crime because only the rich get kidnapped, but that's not true," " said Alfredo Neme Martinez, who heads a national association of wholesale merchants. "They'll kidnap you for $1,000 or $2,000."

The kidnapping furor has gripped the country since the death early last month of Fernando Marti, a 14-year-old boy. The youth was found dead in Mexico City after his wealthy family, founders of a chain of sporting goods stores, reportedly paid kidnappers millions of dollars for his release.

Notice how only the rich can get governments to act?

For all the concern in Mexico over kidnapping, it is unclear how often it occurs. According to official statistics, about 65 people are kidnapped each month. That figure is up 9.1 percent from last year. A Mexican crime institute said that there are probably more than 500 kidnappings a month.

"Express" kidnappings are often glorified muggings, with the victim ordered to withdraw money from an ATM or buy goods for the captors to win release. There are even "virtual" kidnappings, in which no one is taken. A caller pretends to have a captive in hopes of getting the person's loved ones to make a hasty payoff before confirming the claim.


Sort of like a supply-and-demand sort of thing, huh?