06/14/13 (written by petrichk) – On June 12, the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal, SJP) reported that kidnapping in Mexico has increased 33% in the first six months of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency since he took office in December 2012. The Council drew its figures from the National System of Public Security (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), the Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN), and the National Commission of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH).
According to the report, between January and April of this year, 555 people were reported kidnapped as compared to 417 incidences during the same period in 2012. México Evalúa, a Mexico City think tank, also reported that an average of 130 people were kidnapped each month thus far in 2013, compared to 109 average monthly abductions last year. As well, SJP’s data shows that 2,756 kidnappings occurred in 2012, at least 5.2% of the victims whom were also killed, which is an increase from the 3.8% of kidnapping victims killed in 2011. The 2012 total is the second highest number of kidnappings by year on record since 1971, only behind the SJP’s 2011 total of 2,979. As reported by the Justice in Mexico Project’s recently released Fact Sheet: Kidnapping Trends in Mexico, the increase in kidnapping began under former President Felipe Calderón’s administration. Data from the Executive Office of the National Public Security System (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP) within the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación, Segob) shows that 12,003 cases of kidnapping were reported from 1997-2012, of which 7,070 were recorded in 2006-2012, almost 60%.
The reports on the rise in kidnappings come on the heels of several high profile kidnappings, including the abduction of 12 people, at least one of whom is a minor, from a nightclub in Mexico City and the disappearance of a United States Marine and his relatives in the state of Tamaulipas. On May 26, police received 12 individual missing persons reports from the Zona Rosa neighborhood in Mexico City, where the victims were taken together from a nightclub, according to eyewitness, by masked men driving white trucks. Some have tied the kidnappings to drug trafficking because two of the victims are the sons of drug traffickers currently serving prison sentences. Others have attributed the incident to increasing criminal activity in the neighborhood, saying that the abductions are an attempt of an external criminal group to seize control of the area.
The month of May also saw another high profile kidnapping when Armando Torres III of the U.S. Marine Corps, his father, Armando Torres II, and uncle, Salvador Torres, were taken from the family’s ranch in La Barranca, Tamaulipas on May 14. An eyewitness described seeing the men forced into a white truck at gunpoint. The Monitor reported that family members believed the abduction was related to demands by drug traffickers that the elder Armando Torres relinquish the ranch because of its strategic location close to the Texas border. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement to identify the kidnappers and return the Torres’ to safety.
Despite the recent reports and high profile kidnappings, the Peña Nieto administration has been successful in several rescues of kidnapping victims, including the recent liberation of 165 migrant workers in Tamaulipas. On June 4, the Mexican Army stormed a guarded compound in the border state of Tamaulipas and discovered the captive workers. Well over the majority (151) were from other Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, while the remaining 14 individuals were from Mexico. This operation represents the largest successful rescue of kidnapping victims in recent Mexican history. Early reports suggest the coyotes responsible for keeping the migrant workers captive operated as part of either the Zetas or the Gulf cartel. The Zetas have previously been linked to similar crimes, including the 2010 kidnapping and murder of 72 migrants also in the state of Tamaulipas.
Peña Nieto expressed concern during his presidential campaign over the rise of kidnappings from 2006 to present, claiming that upon taking office his administration would tackle the issue head-on to reduce the growing number of cases. However, in his first six months in office, there have been no major developments to address the problem despite pressure from civil society and the general public. For more information on kidnappings in Mexico, check out the Justice in Mexico Project’s Fact Sheet: Kidnapping Trends in Mexico.