Risk Intel Report

Mexico Raids Kidnapping Ring

On July 19, 2005, Rub?n Omar Romano, coach of the Cruz Azul soccer team in southern Mexico City, was abducted in broad daylight as he left practice . Five armed gunmen in two stolen cars ambushed Romano’s BMW on a narrow road. After firing shots into the air, they dragged him from his car and absconded with the celebrity. Just three blocks away, Romano was transferred into a get-away car to evade authorities. A ransom note, with a telephone number and signed “Abram,” was discovered one day later; it called for $500,000 or Romano’s death. This incident is but one example of the skyrocketing rate of kidnapping taking place throughout Mexico , but specifically in the capital city. According to the president of the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Penal Justice: “Unfortunately, this is a daily event for the people that inhabit this country, especially those of us who live in Mexico City?Kidnappings are an out-of-control problem for the authorities.” Mexico has the second highest rate of kidnapping, behind Colombia . In fact, most upper class citizens either know someone who has been snatched or have been abducted themselves. The seeming inability or disinterest of authorities to quell the statistics led to citizens’ protests in 2004. Mexicans United Against Crime, encouraged by victims of particularly brutal kidnappings, has begun a campaign to bring attention to kidnapping. The group’s leader, Maria Elena Morera, acknowledges progress has been made. Current Mayor Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador and a presidential contender, said, “More than anything I am at peace with my conscience,” referring to a decline in reported crimes. Further, a vicious kidnap gang, which was under investigation from March 2003, that would videotape caged captives’ beatings was dismantled on July 23; five men were arrested in Mexico City, although the gang also operated in Puebla and Mexico State. More recently, some 44 hostages in Nuevo Laredo were freed in late June 2005 in a series of raids to crack down on border violence. Kidnappings continue along ? and allegedly across — the US border (WAR Report); many incidents in this region, some of which have involved US citizens, are cartel turf wars and are drug related. This prompted a US State Department Public Announcement (Advisory) in January 2005 that chilled bilateral relations until the situation could be diplomatically massaged (WAR Report). However, just as in any criminal undertaking, kidnappers have metasticized to extortion rackets and quicknappings, which are short-term abductions. Thus far, some 70 people have been reported kidnapped in Mexico City this year; the number is likely to be much higher, as a fundamental distrust of the authorities ? and their frequent complicity in such acts — precludes many report filings. Because of this, Romano’s family has asked authorities not to intervene, but rather to allow the family, and its considerable resources, to resolve the issue. The Romano family would be well advised to employ the services of professional, experienced kidnap and ransom negotiators who can either extract the victim without paying any ransom or who can negotiate a much lower, manageable rate. Kidnapping victims are generally from wealthy business families, although Latin America has seen a spike in abductions of sports celebrities or their family members (WAR Report). However, those considered middle class in the US, are perceived to be affluent and, consequently, prime targets, especially if their visits to Mexico are protracted, which would allow targeting and surveillance. Most gangs abduct their victims as they leave their homes in the morning or are on their way to work; in both cases, most individuals are in set, predictable routines that

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