CRIME IN MEXICO

Suspect arrested over murder of Spanish soccer chief’s niece in Mexico

The detainee is thought to be behind kidnapping and killing of 39-year-old María Villar Galaz

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Police in Mexico have arrested a man on suspicion of the kidnapping and murder of María Villar Galaz, the niece of the president of the Spanish Football Federation Ángel María Villar.

Villar Galaz, 39, disappeared on the night of September 13 after leaving work at the IBM offices in the Santa Fe business district of the Mexican capital and taking a taxi. Kidnappers almost immediately contacted the family demanding a sum initially reported as €90,000 by unofficial sources.

On September 14, the husband of Villar Galaz, Cristiano Do Vale, and cousin Gorka Villar – the federation president’s son – paid 65,000 pesos (€3,000) in cash as part of the ransom demanded at an undisclosed location in Iztapalapa, southeast of the Mexican capital.

Friends of Villar Galaz described her as “happy, nice, fun and in love with Mexico”

However, the Spanish woman’s body was found a day later in Santiago Tianguistenco, a small village an hour from the Mexican capital. A source close to the investigation said Villar Galaz was suffocated with a bag over her head. Her body was then moved to a morgue in Toluca, where it was identified by family members on September 20.

Mexican authorities are to provide more information on the suspect on Friday.

María Villar Galaz had spent almost three years in Mexico City with her husband, first working for technology firm Everis before joining IBM a year ago. Her friends described her as “happy, nice, fun and in love with Mexico”.

Her death caused shock in Spain and highlighted the dangers of life in Mexico. In the last seven months, more than 600 kidnappings have been registered in the country, but the real number could be as high as 6,000 as only 10% of cases thought to be reported. That is around 33 a day.

In Spain, by contrast, there were 87 kidnappings in total in 2015 or one every four days.

The real number of kidnappings in Mexico could be as high as 6,000 a year

Crime continues to be a major concern in Latin America. Enormous economic growth derived from a boom in raw materials and a redistribution of wealth by left-wing governments have managed to reduce poverty, and education and public health have also improved noticeably. However, rates of crime and violence have not decreased.

Nearly 135,000 people were murdered in 2015 in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing a homicide rate that is four times the global average, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

English version by George Mills.

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