The Mexican newspaper Milenio recently reported that during the first three years of president Felipe Calderon’s term, kidnapping reports rose an astounding 90 percent.
A total of 2,593 kidnapping reports were filed during former president Vicente Fox’s term, from 2000 – 2006. In turn, 2,455 kidnapping reports were filed from 2007 – 2009.
It should be noted though that the numbers represent reports of kidnappings instead of the actual numbers, which are most likely higher. In general policemen in Mexico are not trusted because of their corruption and ineffectiveness. In addition, when kidnappings involve rival drug traffickers, it is almost certain they will not involve the police.
Kidnappings are so rampant that many firms doing business in Mexico have kidnapping insurance. In December 2008 a contract employee of ASI Global, which provides kidnapping advice and rescue for companies worldwide, went missing. Over a year later he has still not been found, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Kidnappings do not solely involve drug traffickers or rich families — there have been a rising number of cases involving middle or lower class victims. One typical form is called an express kidnapping, where a person is kidnapped, forced to withdraw money from an ATM and then released. Another epidemic, while not exactly kidnapping, is where a person will call houses at random to demand a ransom when in fact the person has kidnapped no one; the idea is to have the family hand over money before they realize they are safe.
In order to decrease the number of kidnappings, the government must focus on crime and drug trafficking. In August 2008, President Calderon and lawmakers approved a 75 point plan to fight organized crime in Mexico which involves the army.
In 2007 President Bush announced the Merida Initiative, where the U.S. would provide $1.4 billion in equipment, training and technical cooperation to Mexico and Central America over the course of three years with the aim of combating terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crime. However the plan focuses on suppression rather than decreasing demand for drugs or weapons, ruling it more costly and less effective. There also seemed to be no measure that addressed the fact that drug traffickers receive arms from the U.S.
Besides focusing on drugs and weapons, the Mexican government also needs to tackle poverty. When people have opportunities to earn fair wages, they are less likely to resort to a life of crime.
Reducing kidnappings, and crime in general, needs a multi-pronged solution and so far the government’s militarized response is simply ineffective.