Friday, November 21, 2014 at 5:22 AM

Kidnappings in Mexico as Ordinary as Gun Violence in America

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

No doubt the September kidnapping and alleged murder of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico, was a national tragedy. A tragedy the government compounded last week when it announced the arrest of a local mayor and his wife – who allegedly masterminded the kidnappings, as well as that of several local gang members – who allegedly executed the murders.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 11.06.21 AMSadly, kidnappings have become such an ordinary feature of life in Mexico that news about this mass kidnapping did not move me to comment. (It’s like news about another bomb blast in Iraq.) Indeed, the only extraordinary thing about this incident is that the surprising and sustained protests it incited (the largest of which unfolded just last night) actually forced the police to investigate and make arrests.

As it happened, though, here is how the Washington Post reported on this scourge in its August 14 edition – just weeks before the 43 students went missing:

In Mexico, with its history of drug-war violence and corrupt police, kidnapping is an old story…

Last year [2013], Mexico officially recorded 1,698 kidnappings, the highest number on record. [But] Fernando Ruiz Canales, a former kidnapping victim who now helps negotiate for the release of hostages, puts last year’s kidnapping total at 27,740, or 76 per day.

And 2013 was a relatively safe year. For here is how the Huffington Post reported on kidnappings for 2012 in its October 3, 2013, edition:

Mexico saw 105,628 kidnappings last year, according to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, a government agency. The statistics didn’t show much faith in law enforcement to address the problem – only 1,317 cases were reported to police…

Kidnapping for ransom has become a common problem in recent years, in a country plagued by rampant organized crime financed by trafficking drugs….

tamaulipas-number-1-in-kidnappings-pgr2In fact, for decades, kidnappings in Mexico have been as epidemic as gun violence in America.

Which is why I fear this tragedy in Iguala (and all the protests it incited) will have about as much impact on kidnappings in Mexico as that elementary school shooting in Newtown (and all the protests it incited) had on gun violence in America: zero. Not least because, just as collusion between politicians and gun manufacturers undermines all efforts to curb gun violence here, collusion between politicians/policemen and drug cartels undermines all efforts to curb kidnappings there.

The only reason I’m bothering to comment now is that I was utterly stupefied yesterday, when no less a person than a Mexican-American colleague expressed concern about the ongoing protests in Mexico making the problem of kidnappings seem much worse than it is. Recommending he go home and read Charles Bowden’s book Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Field (2010) was all I could do to contain my stupefaction.

My heart goes out to all of those affected by this and other kidnappings in Mexico; just as it continually goes out to all those affected by gun violence in the United States.

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