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Mexican Police Break Up Kidnapping Ring - 2001-10-27

While the U.S.-led war on terrorism continues, Mexico is trying to deal with a type of terror that knows no ideology or religion: kidnapping for ransom. The motive is money, but the product is terror for the victims and their families.

This week Mexican police arrested five members of a gang that they say operated in the states of Mexico and Morelos, near Mexico City, and freed three of their victims. The gang's method of operation was to abduct someone and then demand exorbitant ransoms from the victim's family. When the family members protested that they could not come up with such large amounts of money, the kidnappers then applied terrible pressure.

In a tape recently broadcast on Mexico's Televisa television network, a man pleads with the kidnapper to take the money he has and let his son go free. The kidnapper coldly replies that he will deliver one of the boy's fingers to a specific location as an inducement for the family to come up with more money. One member of the gang was a doctor who has admitted cutting off fingers of helpless victims.

That police broke up this kidnap ring is some comfort for Mexicans, but it is not enough to allow them to relax their guard. Crime remains a top concern among people here and there are many more kidnapping gangs still at large.

The problem is so bad that some foreign companies have shown reluctance to assign top executives to Mexico. Last year, a Japanese executive openly called on the government to address the crime problem or face the possible exit of some Japanese operations. Crime-fighting experts say Mexican police solve fewer than two percent of the crimes committed in the country. There have also been so many cases of police involvement with criminal gangs that most victims are reluctant to even go to the police for help.

Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha is trying to change all that by establishing special federal squads to go after kidnappers. He is asking kidnap victims to come forward now to testify against the alleged gang members who were rounded up earlier this week.