LATIN AMERICA

Kidnappings in Mexico last year were more frequent than was believed

Official statistics show that there were 105,000 incidents in 2012

Last year, there were some 105,000 kidnappings committed in Mexico — a number far higher than previously thought — according to official figures released on Tuesday by the country’s Inegi national statistics agency.

The Peña Nieto administration, which has promised to look into the kidnapping and disappearances of thousands of Mexicans over recent years, had previously placed the annual average at about 1,000. Inegi also said that in 2012, some 21.6 million crimes were committed of which 92 percent were not reported.

While many experts believed that the real number of kidnappings would turn out to be high, they were still taken aback by the new figures. Isabel Mirada de Wallace, president of the Stop Kidnappings organization, had estimated that some 10,000 kidnappings occur in Mexico each year.

“I was shocked,” she said when learning about the Inegi statistics. She believes that government policies in law enforcement and security, under the previous administration of Felipe Calderón and those now being forged by Peña Nieto, have not worked. “There is no kidnapping czar who can come up with strategies,” Miranda de Wallace said. “The specialized squads are a disaster, the police are corrupt and the courts don’t cooperate. The message here is that impunity rules.”

The Inegi numbers are based on a national survey taken in 95,000 households and do not include so-called express kidnappings in which people are taken for a few hours and forced to withdraw money from a cash machine. They also don’t include the kidnappings of migrants from Central America who cross their way into Mexico trying to make it to the United States. The growing number of these incidents have alarmed international human rights organizations.

The report also states that there were 4,007 forced disappearances last year.

These latest figures from Mexico are far higher even than the number of kidnappings that took place in Colombia perpetrated by armed guerrilla groups. Between 1970 and 2010, some 39,000 people have been abducted, according to the Historic Memory National Center in Bogota.

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