April 14, 2014
Business Insider, 4/14/14
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.
February 11, 2014
NY Times, 2/11/14
In December alone, at least seven people were kidnapped in this town of 100,000 people, according to a tally by community organizers. All but one was slain, several after a ransom was paid to kidnappers that officials describe as a fragment of a nationwide drug cartel looking for new sources of income after authorities arrested and killed many of its leaders. Frightened and furious, residents launched a series of protests outside city hall demanding government action. The state’s tough-talking new public security chief took control of the municipal police department last month and sent hundreds of state police to Yautepec, promising prompt arrests.
But in this proving ground in Mexico’s fight against a nationwide surge in kidnappings, people are still staying home after dark, watching the streets for strange cars and feeling sick with dread whenever a loved one didn’t come home on time. Residents say the reinforcements are welcome but they have no confidence that government institutions they claim are rotten with corruption can have any real long-term impact on a problem that has reached epidemic proportions in this sunbaked stretch of sugarcane and tomato fields dotted with the weekend homes of Mexico City’s upper-middle class.
December 16, 2013
The New York Times, 12/14/2013
With violence down to a quarter of its peak, Ciudad Juárez, a perennial symbol of drug war devastation, is experiencing what many here describe as a boom. New restaurants pop up weekly, a few with a hipster groove. Schools and homes in some neighborhoods are gradually filling again, while new nightclubs throb on weekends with wall-to-wall teenagers and 20-somethings who insist on reclaiming the freedom to work and play without being consumed by worry.
Critics here fear that the changes are merely cosmetic, and there is still disagreement over what, exactly, has led to the drastic drop in violence. Some attribute it to an aggressive detention policy by the police; others say the worst killers have died or fled, or that the Sinaloa drug cartel has simply defeated its rivals, leaving a peace of sorts that could quickly be undone.
November 4, 2013
Global Post, 11/1/13
Not long ago, all headlines out of Ciudad Juarez screamed bloody drug war murder. Now something unexpected is happening in the Mexican border town. Homicides have plummeted. Some who fled have returned.
October 21, 2013
The Economist, 10/19/2013
Troubled by the bloody image this gave Mexico, Mr Peña has adopted a new approach since taking over in December. Its most eye-catching element is to pour 118 billion pesos ($9.1 billion) into the 220 most violent neighbourhoods in the country, offering more schooling, jobs, parks and cultural activities to stop them becoming “crime factories”. Footballers have joined in, providing soccer camps to slum kids who might otherwise want to become hired guns.
These are not new ideas. Efforts to mend the torn social fabric in the most crime-ridden cities, like Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, started under Mr Calderón. Mr Peña has given them greater impetus, yet even his government recognises that they will not yield a quick pay-off. Meanwhile, it is under pressure to produce a coherent law-enforcement plan in a country where, according even to official statistics, almost nine out of ten crimes go unreported. Policing is a particular concern. “They are still in reactive mode. If there is a plan to go after drug-traffickers, it’s being kept super-secret,” says Vanda Felbab-Brown, a crime analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
October 15, 2013
The Huffington Post, 10/14/2013
When the threatening phone calls demanding $20,000 in protection money began in December, Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria shrugged them off, believing his clinic on the outskirts of Mexico City couldn’t possibly be of interest to criminal gangs. A few months later, his sense of security was shattered when three armed men barged into his office screaming “Dr. Ramon, you bastard, where are you?”
“They tried to tackle me, to take me out of the clinic, when I saw that each one had a pistol tucked into his belt,” said Gaviria, recounting the ordeal. “They thought that, because I’m a doctor, I wasn’t going to resist.”
Such shakedown rackets have long targeted businesses in the most violent corners of Mexico. Now the practice is spreading. One anti-crime group estimates that kidnapping across the country has jumped by one-third so far this year compared to 2012. And as the extortion industry expands, it has drawn both experienced criminals and imitators.
October 4, 2013
The latest public security report, released by Mexico’s statistics bureau (INEGI) earlier this week, reveals the extent of the country’s rampant and virtually unpunished kidnapping problem. According to the report, a mind-boggling 105,682 kidnappings were committed in Mexico last year, of which an incredibly small 1,317 were reported to local or federal authorities. In other words, 99% of kidnappings in Mexico flew under the radar last year.
Many kidnappings are drug-related, and therefore often kept from authorities because victims involved in the drug trade want to avoid backlash or crackdowns on other offenses. But a good deal of the 100,000+ abductions went unreported on suspicion that nothing would be done, or worse, that more harm would come to the involved parties.