Once the plutocrats’ plague, kidnapping for ransom in Mexico has gone decidedly mass market. Shopkeepers and family physicians, carpenters and taxi drivers: All have been targeted in recent years as minions of young criminals enter a trade long run by guerrillas and gangland bosses. That puts Mexico, along with Colombia and Venezuela, among the world’s most kidnap-prone countries.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, 16 months into a six-year term, has struggled to meet his promises to dramatically lessen the crime. Both abductions and extortion continue to soar even as his government’s campaign against crime syndicates impacts drug profits and gang discipline weakens as kingpins are killed or captured. Many wealthy Mexicans have long hired bodyguards and taken other security precautions, making them harder to get.
The typical profile of kidnappers, meanwhile, is becoming younger and less sophisticated — more willing to favor quick paydays over substantial ones. That’s making Mexico’s middle class, and even the working poor, the criminals’ targets of choice.