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Farm town is test in Mexico’s battle against kidnapping

First Published      Last Updated Feb 11 2014 07:59 am
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"The people's fear created a psychosis and now they're assuming that a lot of people have been kidnapped when that isn't the case," he said. "Now they're reporting 10 kidnappings in a week that never happened. What's the goal? Maybe it's political ... I see political figures in these marches who want to tell the people, 'Look, I'm the solution. Vote for me.'"

President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged during his 2012 campaign that he would swiftly and sharply reduce the crimes that most affect ordinary Mexicans — homicide, kidnapping and extortion.

Under pressure, his administration announced on Jan. 28 that it was launching a 10-point anti-abduction strategy to be led by a new national anti-kidnapping czar, who told reporters that kidnapping had become "a national emergency."

The administration promised better coordination between state, federal and local governments, retraining of ineffective anti-kidnapping police units, development of a national database of kidnapping reports and tighter control of prisons where inmates run kidnapping rings from behind bars.

"Kidnapping can't be a crime that's profitable and low-risk for criminals," said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the country's most powerful law enforcement official.

That's exactly what it has become in Morelos, a short drive south of Mexico City.

Among the demonstrators outside Alonso's office has been Maria Ruth Gonzalez Vidales, 55, who owns a small clothing shop in the center of town. Her husband is an auto mechanic.

In 2012, their son Cesar, a 33-year-old architect and engineer, was kidnapped as he drove through Cuernavaca to visit his family in Yautepec. The family got together $10,000 and left it in packets of $2,000 in a cereal box in Cuernavaca. Five days later their son was found dead in the trunk of his car, a few hundred feet from the office of the state prosecutor, where the family had just reported him kidnapped.

"They haven't caught anybody," she said. "It's as if the kidnappers are saying to themselves, 'Nothing is going to happen, we'll keep up our wave of violence, of kidnappings, and no one will do anything.'"

She says she has no fear of retaliation for participating in the marches on city hall.

"I feel as if I'm already dead," she said. "I'm not afraid of anyone seeing me. I want everyone to know. I'm going to keep going and one day these people will pay."


Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein