On the second Saturday in August, Mexico City’s local English language newspaper, The News, had the following items of interest:


Item: „Industry group puts out as pleading for safety, peace.” This was the beginning of the public outcry against the growing kidnapping business in México that has seen an over 9% increase of reported kidnappings in México this year. I underline „reported” because the government admits that only one-third of kidnappings are reported. Actually, it is far less than that; probably closer to 10% at best. And it is widely believed that most of the kidnappings are either conducted by the police, or at lest with police complicity. What caused this outcry was the kidnapping of a 14 year-old son of a wealthy businessman. Although he paid the requested ransom (through a middleman), they found his son’s decomposed body in the trunk of an auto two weeks after the event.  And this, in itself is not uncommon. There is even a growing „service” business of „negotiators” work between the victims and the kidnap gangs to work out release details.

Let me relate a case in point of a man that I know: He was a middle management employee of a local manufacturing firm here. One morning, after coming to work, he received a phone message that his wife and small daughter had been kidnapped and that he would receive instructions later. He ran home and found that indeed, his family was missing. What followed was something out of the book „The Pelican Brief.”  Running from pay phone to pay phone with instructions and the ransom demands. And don’t report anything to the police. After scraping up and borrowing the required funds, he was instructed to go to an industrial area in the Federal District late on a Saturday night with the money. Of course, this area is deserted at that time. He arrived on schedule with the money and noted that one block away was a police car with the lights out and two uniforms inside. He went in, paid the money, and was given his family, fortunately physically unharmed. On the way out, he noted that the police car was still there and left quickly. Obviously, the two cops were simply making sure that everything went as planned.

Follow up: Later in August, more and more groups joined the industrial group demanding better security for Mexicans. A federally led conference was held in the third week of August and a 74 point initiative was put together. Of course were points for reorganizing the police forces. México has a long history in this. Just reorganize or reshuffle the police and walk away from the real problem. „Feel good” propaganda. All we do is to create more police forces but do nothing to solve the real problem. As it is, the police forces are still hopelessly corrupt. Simply changing names does nothing. As it is on the federal level, we have a judicial police force along with separate preventative and investigative police. All with separate missions and with almost no communications between them.

The biggest laugh is that in the 74 recommendations is the item to make sure that the police are not corrupt by giving them all a „test”. I can just see how this will work. Answer the following 20 yes or no questions to prove that you are not corrupt.

President Calderón’s suggestion was of increasing the penalty for kidnapping to life imprisonment. How is this going to do anything? Increase to life from the already 60-year sentencing? When only 1% of reported kidnappings result is any conviction?

But I am also noting increasing commentary by other Mexican political columnists that the real solution to this problem lies in eliminating the disconnect between the political community to the voting public. This means ending the one term limits and eliminating the direct appointments to the legislatures by the political parties.

As long as our legislators have no direct responsibility to the public, expect more of the same: Feed the public some more „feel good” statements and let the next batch of freshman legislators deal with it . . . again.

Join the big protest march scheduled for 30 August in México City. Like the one back in 2004. But nothing changed back then, did it?
Richard N. Baldwin T., a HispanicVista.com (www.hispanicvista.com) contributing columnist, lives in
Tlalnepantla, Edo de México. E-mail at: [email protected]