Gregory Bull/AP
Armed police officials walk in a
neighborhood in Tijuana,
during a police operation.

Public Demands Action as Mexican Kidnappings Surge

December 15, 2008 12:46 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The threat of kidnapping has become broader as government efforts against drug cartels push organized crime groups to find other means of profit.

Kidnapping a Universal Worry

A school closure in Ciudad Juarez, following the posting of a threat to begin kidnapping students unless teachers’ bonuses were turned over, is only the latest event to spur the public to action.

Although the notice was pulled down before students arrived, parents began keeping their children at home.

Previously targeting mainly wealthier individuals, kidnappers have expanded their efforts to include a growing number of middle and lower class individuals, making up about half of the country’s cases.

President Felipe Calderon has launched a serious offensive against organized crime as a whole, and some feel that the pressure has pushed the groups to expand their kidnapping to make up for the money lost through a weakened drug trade.

Averaging around 65 kidnappings a month, Mexico has seen a 9 percent spike in cases this year.

Although the number of drug-related deaths remains high, the Los Angeles Times reports that many feel that kidnapping is more of a national problem because it affects so a wide swath of the population, while murder victims are usually the result of gang-on-gang violence.

However, as kidnappings become increasingly deadly—more than 60 victims have been killed since 2006—families are becoming increasingly desperate.

The rash of kidnappings comes amid a wave of attacks that has left hundreds dead across the country.

According to the BBC, 443 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico this past July—more than in Iraq or Afghanistan. BBC correspondent James Painter said, “On one notorious day in July, a group of heavily armed men shot dead 12 people in three separate shoot-outs within a period of eight minutes.” The violent trend in Mexico is already several months old: so far in 2008, close to 3,000 people have been killed, surpassing the country’s death toll for all of 2007.

Mexico serves as the halfway point and main channel for drugs in transit from Colombia to the United States. A BBC world service poll reported that 42 percent of the 1,266 Mexicans polled in seven cities “felt less safe than they did a year ago.” Additionally, the BBC found conflicting responses: 68 percent of respondents believe in a military solution to drug trafficking, but 80 percent said the government should consider seeking other alternatives to end the problem. Since his 2006 election, President Felipe Calderon has installed 40,000 soldiers to battle the drug cartels.
This desperation has been made worse by the role of police officers in the actual crimes, leading some to insist the surest way to avoid capture was to fend for yourself.

"If there's no iron hand, this will never end," kidnapping victim Gilberto Garcia told the Times. "If I had known that day they were coming after me, I would have run over them. Every man for himself."

In addition to mass public protests demanding further government actions to curb the rise in abductions, some families are taking on the work of the police.

In Mexico City, Isabel Wallace began investigating the disappearance of her son after she found the efforts of the local police to be wanting.

Background: Explosion of murders and kidnappings

Related Topic: Grenade suspects released; Mexican cartel bust


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