Kidnapping for ransom, including complicity of police officers, types of kidnapping, effectiveness of law enforcement officials and protection available to victims (2004 - 2005) [MEX100642.E]

De nombreux articles publiés par diverses sources en 2004 et en 2005 ont mentionné que les enlèvements contre rançon étaient fréquents dans tout le pays, en particulier dans les grandes zones urbaines comme Mexico (Canada 14 oct. 2005; États-Unis 26 juill. 2005; IHT 22 juill. 2005; EFE 10 juin 2004). Toutefois, même si, selon certaines sources, le nombre d'enlèvements a augmenté de façon considérable au cours des dernières années (ibid.; The Economist 17 juin 2004), le gouvernement mexicain rejette cette déclaration : il affirme que le nombre de délits de ce type s'est stabilisé et a même légèrement diminué (ibid.; El Universal 22 janv. 2004).

D'après le cabinet de conseil en gestion du risque Kroll Inc., environ 3 000 enlèvements se sont produits dans tout le pays en 2003, ce qui place le Mexique au deuxième rang mondial, après la Colombie, en termes de nombre d'enlèvements par an (Mexidata 14 juin 2004; EFE 10 juin 2004; The Economist 17 juin 2004). En 2004, le conseil des citoyens pour la sécurité publique (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Publica - CCSP), organisation non gouvernementale (ONG) de lutte contre le crime, a mentionné que 4 000 personnes avaient été enlevées entre 1997 et 2003 et que la plupart de ces délits [traduction] « s'étaient produits à Mexico [District fédéral] et dans les États de Mexico, de Guerrero et de Michoacan [...] » (EFE 10 juin 2004). Le Latinamerica Press a mentionné en juin 2004 que les enlèvements étaient devenus plus fréquents dans les États de Tamaulipas, d'Oaxaca et de Morelos (30 juin 2004).

En août 2005, le CCSP a affirmé que le Mexique avait dépassé la Colombie à titre de chef de file mondial en ce qui concerne le nombre d'enlèvements signalés (El Universal 4 août 2005). Tandis que le CCSP a compté 194 enlèvements entre janvier et juin 2005, soit plus que les 172 enlèvements enregistrés en Colombie, le Bureau du procureur général de la République (Procuraduria General de la República - PGR) a affirmé avoir été informé de 87 cas d'enlèvements seulement (ibid.).

Selon le PGR, même si 2 318 enlèvements ont été signalés dans tout le pays entre 2000 et mars 2004, la tendance pour l'année a été relativement stable : 531 enlèvements en 2000, 568 en 2001, 535 en 2002, 531 en 2003 et 153 de janvier à mars 2004 (FBIS 2 juill. 2004). Néanmoins, les renseignements sur la fréquence des enlèvements au Mexique demeurent sujets à controverse puisque les esprits critiques soutiennent que de nombreux enlèvements ne sont pas signalés parce que les victimes craignent de mettre en colère les ravisseurs (San Diego Union-Tribune 21 mai 2005; Latinamerica Press 30 juin 2004); elles redoutent aussi l'inefficacité de la police dans les cas d'enlèvement (IHT 22 juill. 2005; El Universal 4 août 2005), et son éventuelle collusion avec les ravisseurs (The Economist 17 juin 2004; Latinamerica Press 30 juin 2004; The Christian Science Monitor 18 oct. 2004).

Complicités dans la police

De nombreux articles ont mentionné la participation de la police aux enlèvements (ibid.; Frontera NorteSur 28 juin 2005; FBIS 6 sept. 2005; The Christian Science Monitor 18 oct. 2004; Latin American Weekly Report 22 juin 2004, 10). Par exemple, le PGR a mentionné que [traduction] « [s]ur les 292 ravisseurs présumés qui avaient été arrêtés [entre 2001 et juin 2004], 13 (4,5 p. 100) étaient des policiers en service actif, pour la plupart membres de l'ancienne Policia Judicial Federal » (ibid.). En juin 2005, Frontera NorteSur, service de nouvelles en ligne rapportant les problèmes à la frontière mexico-américaine (s.d.), a signalé que la police municipale de Nuevo Laredo aurait participé à l'enlèvement d'au moins 43 personnes (Frontera NorteSur 28 juin 2005). Les victimes, secourues par la police fédérale et l'armée, auraient déclaré avoir été enlevées par des membres de la police locale puis livrées à [traduction] « d'autres hommes armés » (ibid.). En septembre 2005, des membres de la police du District fédéral ont arrêté trois agents fédéraux pour plusieurs délis présumés, dont des enlèvements (FBIS 6 sept. 2005).

Types d'enlèvements

En 2005, diverses sources ont également énuméré les différents types d'enlèvements qui comprennent l'enlèvement de durée prolongée (Canada 14 oct. 2005), l'enlèvement express (IHT 22 juill. 2005; États-Unis 26 juill. 2005; San Diego Union-Tribune 21 mai 2005) et l'enlèvement virtuel (ibid.). Dans les enlèvements de durée prolongée, les ravisseurs enlèvent leur victime et la détiennent indéfiniment, jusqu'à ce qu'ils obtiennent une rançon importante (IHT 22 juill. 2005). L'enlèvement, en juillet 2005, d'un entraîneur de soccer bien connu à Mexico est un exemple qui a été très médiatisé; la rançon demandée était de 500 000 $US (ibid.). Cependant, en septembre 2005, des agents de l'agence fédérale d'enquêtes (Agencia Federal de Investigacion - AFI) ont fait une descente sur le repaire des ravisseurs et ont sauvé l'entraîneur sans problème (Reuter 22 sept. 2005). Veuillez consulter la section sur la protection offerte par l'État pour obtenir plus de renseignements sur l'AFI.

L'enlèvement express consiste à enlever une personne pour une courte période (de quelques heures à quelques jours) pour obtenir de l'argent rapidement, retiré habituellement aux guichets automatiques bancaires, ou jusqu'à ce qu'une rançon modeste soit payée en échange de la remise en liberté de la personne enlevée (EFE 19 avr. 2005; États-Unis 26 juill. 2005; Mexidata 14 juin 2004; Latinamerica Press 30 juin 2004). D'après un article sur les enlèvements à Tijuana publié en mai 2005, l'enlèvement express concerne [traduction] « une somme plus petite, de 5 000 à 30 000 $ par exemple », et les victimes sont habituellement libérées après quelques jours (San Diego Union-Tribune 21 mai 2005).

En ce qui concerne l'enlèvement [traduction] « virtuel », le San Diego Union-Tribune a mentionné que ce crime ressemble à de l'extorsion en ce sens que les ravisseurs éventuels demandent à leurs victimes de leur verser de l'argent afin de ne pas être enlevées (21 mai 2005). L'article ajoute que 10 membres du milieu des affaires de Tijuana ont signalé ce type de menace d'enlèvement en 2003 (San Diego Union-Tribune 21 mai 2005).

L'article électronique annexé, publié en septembre 2004 par The Independent de Londres, donne un aperçu du problème des enlèvements à Mexico et offre trois témoignages sur différents types d'enlèvements, comme l'enlèvement express.

De façon générale, les médias ont signalé que, si les ravisseurs ciblent habituellement des personnes nanties, ils se tournent de plus en plus vers les classes moyenne et ouvrière (Mexidata 14 juin 2004; The Economist 17 juin 2004; The Christian Science Monitor 18 oct. 2004; The Independent 5 sept. 2004).

Efforts de protection de l'État

Selon un article paru en juin 2004 dans le Latin American Weekly Report, l'enlèvement [traduction] « n'est pas en lui-même un délit fédéral, mais il relève des gouvernements des États et de celui du District fédéral » (22 juin 2004). Néanmoins, certains États ont réalisé des efforts pour renforcer la loi contre l'enlèvement; par exemple, l'État de Veracruz a adopté en janvier 2004 une loi faisant passer à 50 ans la période maximale d'incarcération pour les ravisseurs reconnus coupables (Latin American Weekly Report 3 févr. 2004). En outre, le District fédéral et les États de Tlaxcala, de Puebla, de Hidalgo, de Morelos, de Mexico et de Veracruz ont décidé de placer les personnes reconnues coupables d'enlèvement dans des prisons à sécurité maximale (EFE 23 juin 2004).

Toutefois, en juin 2004, le ministre fédéral de la sécurité de l'époque, Alejandro Gertz, a reconnu la nécessité d'adopter une loi fédérale contre les enlèvements (Latin American Weekly Report 22 juin 2004). Par la suite, en avril 2005, la chambre basse du Congrès a approuvé les modifications au code pénal fédéral en vue de mettre l'enlèvement dans la catégorie des délits (EFE 19 avr. 2005). En juin 2005, ces modifications sont entrées en vigueur; l'enlèvement express [traduction] est devenu un « délit grave » passible d'une peine d'emprisonnement allant de 15 à 40 ans (BBC Mundo 16 juin 2005). Aucune information sur l'efficacité de cette nouvelle loi n'a pu être trouvée parmi les sources consultées par la Direction des recherches.

Même si les enlèvements relèvent de la compétence des États, le président Fox a déclaré en juin 2004 que les autorités fédérales allaient travailler avec les gouvernements des États et des municipalités [traduction] « afin de coordonner les efforts de lutte contre les enlèvements » (Mexidata 14 juin 2004; EFE 10 juin 2004). Par conséquent, une grande partie des mesures d'application de la loi visant à lutter contre les enlèvements ont été prises principalement par des agences de police fédérales comme l'AFI (Reuter 22 sept. 2005; El Universal 22 janv. 2004; Latin American Weekly Report 22 juin 2004; Business Mexico sept. 2004). En septembre 2004, le magazine de Mexico, Business Mexico, a mentionné que les gens d'affaires mexicains avaient une meilleure opinion de de l'AFI en ce qui concerne la façon dont elle traite les délits comme les enlèvements. Entre le moment de sa création, en décembre 2001, et le mois de juin 2004, l'AFI aurait démantelé 48 bandes de ravisseurs, arrêté 305 ravisseurs présumés et résolu 419 cas d'enlèvement (Latin American Weekly Report 22 juin 2004). En outre, l'AFI a aidé les autorités étatiques dans 91 cas d'enlèvement (ibid.). De plus, les autorités fédérales ont annoncé que, de janvier à août 2005, elles avaient mis en détention 72 ravisseurs présumés et avaient [traduction] « complètement démantelé » 11 bandes de ravisseurs (El Universal 4 août 2005).

Pour de plus amples renseignements sur l'AFI, veuillez consulter l'exposé rédigé par la Direction des recherches en mai 2004 intitulé Mexique : police.

Certes, d'importants réseaux d'enlèvement ont été démantelés, mais il semble que cette réussite ait donné lieu à la multiplication de plus petits groupes qui sont [traduction] « plus impitoyables » lorsque la famille de la victime n'est pas en mesure de payer la rançon demandée (Latinamerica Press 30 juin 2004; The Economist 17 juin 2004). Ces soi-disant [traduction] « groupes d'amateurs » seraient connus pour être extrêmement violents envers leurs captifs, violant prétendument les femmes et blessant les hommes (ibid.).

Cette réponse a été préparée par la Direction des recherches à l'aide de renseignements puisés dans les sources qui sont à la disposition du public, et auxquelles la Direction des recherches a pu avoir accès dans les délais prescrits. Cette réponse n'apporte pas, ni ne prétend apporter, de preuves concluantes quant au fondement d'une demande d'asile. Veuillez trouver ci-dessous la liste des autres sources consultées pour la réponse à cette demande d'information.

Références


BBC Mundo. 16 juin 2005. « Tipifican secuestro express en Mexico ». http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4102000/4102044.stm [Date de consultation : 14 oct. 2005]

Business Mexico [Mexico]. Septembre 2004. Vol. 14, numéro 9. Kelly Garrett. « Spotlight on Security: Cooperation Between Private and Public Sectors Can Make Everyone Safer ». (Factiva)

Canada. 14 octobre 2005. Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce international. Affaires étrangères Canada. « Mexico ». Conseils aux voyageurs. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/dest/reportPF-en.asp?country=184000 [Date de consultation : 14 oct. 2005]

The Christian Science Monitor [Boston]. 18 octobre 2004. Danna Harman. « In Mexico, Kidnapping Is No Longer Just a Problem for the Rich ». http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1018/p01s03-woam.htm [Date de consultation : 14 oct. 2005]

The Economist [Londres]. 17 juin 2004. « Fear of Captivity ». http://www.economist.com/PrinterFriendly.cfm?Story_Id=2766416 [Date de consultation : 21 janv. 2005]

EFE. 19 avril 2005. « Mexican Lawmakers Classify "Express Kidnapping" as a Crime ». (Dialog)

____. 23 juin 2004. « Epidemic Kidnappings Force Mexican Authorities to Meet ». (Dialog)

____. 10 juin 2004. Julian Rodriguez. « Alarmed Mexicans Demand Gov't Action to Stem Kidnappings ». (Dialog)

États-Unis. 26 juillet 2005. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. « Mexico ». Fiche d'information consulaire. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html?css=print [Date de consultation : 14 oct. 2005]

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). 6 septembre 2005. « Highlights: Mexico Crime and Narcotics Issues 3-6 Sep 05 ». (WNC/Dialog)

____. 2 juillet 2004. « Highlights: Mexico Crime, Narcotics Issues 2 Jun 04 - PHOTOS ». (WNC/Dialog)

Frontera NorteSur [Las Cruces, Nouveau-Mexique]. 28 juin 2005. « Mexican Police Blamed for Mass Kidnappings ». (Site Internet Mexidata) http://www.mexidata.info/id528.html [Date de consultation : 11 oct. 2005]

____. S.d. « Frontera NorteSur Information ». http://frontera.nmsu.edu/ [Date de consultation : 17 oct. 2005]

The Independent [Londres]. 5 septembre 2004. « Mexico City: The New Kidnap Capital of the World ». (Archives de Google - Site Internet Seguridad y Democracia) http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:aaWIBneA3NQJ:www.seguridadydemocracia.org/monitordeseguridad/internacional/AMERICA/mexico/septiembre/mexico_5SeptiembreIndependt_Mexico.htm+%22Mexico+City:+The+New+Kidnap+Capital+of+the+World%22&hl=en [Date de consultation : 19 oct. 2005]

International Herald Tribune (IHT). 22 juillet 2005. James C. McKinley Jr. « Anger in Mexico as Famous Coach is Kidnapped ». http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/2005/07/21/news/mexico.php [Date de consultation : 11 oct. 2005]

Latin American Weekly Report [Londres]. 29 juin 2004. « Fox Bill Flops as Thousands March Against Kidnapping ». (WR-04-25)

____. 22 juin 2004. « Anticrime "Crusade" and Unheeded Facts ». (WR-04-24)

____. 3 février 2004. « State Law Tries to Block "Inhibit" Ransom Payments ».(WR-04-05)

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 30 juin 2004. Vol. 36, no 13. « Mexico: Fighting Back Federal, State Governments Launch Campaign Against Kidnappings ». http://www.latinamericapress.org/main.asp [Date de consultation : 30 juin 2004]

Mexidata [San Diego]. 14 juin 2004. Barnard R. Thompson. « Kidnappings Are out of Control in Mexico ». http://www.mexidata.info/id217.html [Date de consultation : 14 oct. 2005]

Reuter. 22 septembre 2005. Alistair Bell. « Mexico Police Score Rare Win in Soccer Coach Rescue ». http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N22585727.htm [Date de consultation : 11 oct. 2005]

San Diego Union-Tribune. 21 mai 2005. Anna Cearley. « Kidnap Fears Causing Some to Leave Tijuana ». http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico/tijuana/20050521-9999-1n21kidnap.html [Date de consultation : 11 oct. 2005]

El Universal [Mexico]. 4 août 2005. « Group: Mexico Leads World in Abductions ». http://www2.eluniversal.com.mx/pls/impreso/version_imprimir?id_nota=11437&tabla=miami_h [Date de consultation : 4 oct. 2005]

____. 22 janvier 2004. « PGR: Kidnap Rates Falling ». http://www2.eluniversal.com.mx/pls/impreso/version_imprimir?id_nota=2884&tabla=miami_h [Date de consultation : 5 mai 2004]

Autres sources consultées


Sites Internet, y compris : Amnesty International, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, World News Connection.

Document annexé


The Independent [Londres]. 5 septembre 2004. « Mexico City: The New Kidnap Capital of the World ». (Archives de Google - Site Internet Securidad y Democracia) http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:aaWIBneA3NQJ:www.seguridadydemocracia.org/monitordeseguridad/internacional/AMERICA/mexico/septiembre/mexico_5SeptiembreIndependt_Mexico.htm+%22Mexico+City:+The+New+Kidnap+Capital+of+the+World%22&hl=en [Date de consultation : 19 oct. 2005] Document annexé électronique

The Independent [Londres]. 5 septembre 2004. " Mexico City: The New Kidnap Capital of the World ". (Archives de Google - Site Internet Securidad y Democracia) http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:aaWIBneA3NQJ:www.seguridadydemocracia.org/monitordeseguridad/internacional/AMERICA/mexico/septiembre/mexico_5SeptiembreIndependt_Mexico.htm+%22Mexico+City:+The+New+Kidnap+Capital+of+the+World%22&hl=en [Date de consultation : 19 oct. 2005]
Mexico City: The New Kidnap Capital of the World
Leaning back in a chair in his Mexico City office, systems analyst Roberto Garcia winces as he remembers the phone calls. The commands were simple. "Pick up the receiver by the second ring or we will beat your nephew until he bleeds. Fail to make the ransom demand and we will send him back to you in pieces."
Scooped off the streets of the Mexican capital as he went out for a hamburger near his home in the modest Iztapalapa neighbourhood, the youngster was held bound and blindfolded for five weeks. Threatened, abused and alone as his family scrabbled to pull together 1m peso (around £50,000) ransom, the middle-class Garcia family were thrown into a terrifying new world - but one that is becoming ever-more familiar to Mexicans."We thought that we wouldn't be vulnerable to kidnapping because we don't have the kind of money they ask for," says the soft-spoken 64-year-old as he recalls the ordeal. "Now the poor, the middle-income and the rich are all being targeted. Kidnapping has become an industry."
In a recent report, international risk consultants Kroll Inc estimated that some 3,000 people were victims of kidnapping in Mexico last year - around 20 times the number actually reported to the country's notoriously corrupt police force - placing the fast-modernizing nation of 100 million people second only to strife-torn Colombia in the global kidnapping league.
In June, the wave of abductions triggered the largest street demonstrations seen for a decade in Mexico which in turn led to the resignation of the country's public security minister. The kidnaps also form the chilling backdrop to Man on Fire, a fast-paced thriller by British director Tony Scott that premiere's across the UK next month.
While abductions are rife throughout the country, Mexico's vast capital bears the brunt. The largest city in Latin America with 20 million residents, smog-choked Mexico City is ringed by a dizzying labyrinth of cinder-block slums and has an urban sprawl that covers an area twice the size of Greater London - few taxi drivers claim to know more than half of its streets. The city is also home to 18 well-organised kidnap gangs that have an ever-broader range of carefully chosen victims.
Drawing on a range of conspirators including policemen, bank clerks, domestic servants and security guards at residential blocks across the capital, these gangs work up a detailed profile of their victims that enables them to choose a window of opportunity for the kidnap and set a realistic ransom. Whereas abductions were once cyclical, analysts say the activity now forms a year-round "war without quarter".
"It used to be that kidnappings would pick up just before holidays such as Mother's Day, Christmas and Holy Week because the criminals needed the money to party," says Max Morales, a Mexico City security analyst who is widely regarded as one of the country's foremost authorities on kidnapping. "But we started this year freeing two people on 4 January and there is no longer any respite."
The ransom market is thought to be worth in excess of $100m (£56m) a year. This huge pot is now also luring a range of opportunistic criminals from across Mexico City and beyond. The emerging gangs are less business oriented and more emotional than their predecessors and, as a result, more violent.
Since the beginning of 1996, Mexican kidnappers have shot, stabbed and strangled over 160 of their hostages, with more than half of the fatalities occurring during a surge of criminal activity in the past three years. In one recent case that sickened crime-weary Mexicans, two young brothers were shot dead and their bodies tossed in a skip even after their parents paid a $600,000 (£335,000) ransom.
Another case in July involved the kidnap and murder of Mexico's 1997 Woman of the Year, Carmen Gutierrez. A highly regarded specialist in rehabilitative medicine, Gutierrez was snatched as she left her smart apartment complex. Her abductors became jittery during negotiations, strangled her and tossed her body in a sewage canal on the city's outskirts. Then, noticing that she was still alive, they held her head under the water until she stopped breathing.
Most in Mexico find it difficult to conceive of anyone being capable of such brutality. Some clues as to what types of people the kidnappers might be came in a recent profile of six gang leaders that was leaked by the AFI - Mexico's equivalent of the FBI - to the newspaper Reforma. The profile showed them to be long-term offenders with a history of crimes including assault, robbery, extortion and murder, who had spent years in the brutal prison system.
Rounded up in separate swoops during the first half of the year, these mafia leaders had nicknames common in the Latin American underworld, including El Alacran and El Duende - The Scorpion and The Goblin - and liked to spend the freely flowing ransom money on baubles including white-gold watches and fast motorbikes. They were also armed with weapons including Uzi submachine guns, fancy Beretta, Colt and Taurus pistols and AK-47 assault rifles - known in gangland slang as the "cuerno de chivo" or "goat horn" because of its distinctive curved ammunition clip.
As in Scott's film, the Santa Muerte death cult also figured large in their stories. The scythe-wielding figurine of Our Lady of Death is revered by gangsters, thieves and prostitutes in the capital's crime-ridden Tepito neighbourhood who call on her for protection. Spurned by the Catholic Church, the cult has spilled out of the barrio and now counts policemen and politicians among its tattooed and talisman-wearing devotees, and has chapters as far away as Los Angeles.
The kidnappers do not work alone. Victims' testimonies routinely include accounts of "arrests" by uniformed police officers who have used their squad cars to pull over intended targets. Among those charged for several recent abductions are current and former employees of the various branches of the federal and municipal forces. In June, a group of elite officers was detained after abducting a businessman with the aid of false arrest warrants.
In a bid to cover their tracks and protect one another, corrupt, high-ranking officers band together in a secret group called La Hermandad - The Brotherhood. La Hermandad links the underworld gangs of the city's shantytowns to the upper echelons of the authorities, who profit from criminal endeavours ranging from drug trafficking to extortion."What you have to understand," says Morales, as we talk in his offices high above the thrumming traffic of the capital's smart Colonia del Valle district, "is that police corruption is not just a matter of taking bribes to turn a blind eye but of policeman who are active kidnappers. What's worse is that people charged with cracking the corruption continue to tolerate it."
So real is the fear of high-level corruption in law-enforcement circles that Mexico's attorney general, Raphael Macedo, recently had microchips implanted beneath the skin of 160 top federal prosecutors and investigators to ensure access to a highly sensitive new crime database that went live last month was secure. The devices, manufactured by the Florida-based VeriChip Corp, carry unique identification codes to foil attempts by impostors trying to gain access to the network.
While Mexico's law-enforcement community struggles to combat the corruption that threatens it from within, wealthy Mexicans are going to ever-greater lengths to protect themselves, turning to the private security companies piling into a booming market now worth hundreds of millions of pounds each year. It is estimated that up to 1,000 firms are currently offering security services, ranging from those supplying baton-toting guards to shopping malls, to a dozen or so companies that offer top-of-the-range VIP protection packages. The most comprehensive deals on offer include risk-assessment services, employee screening and crisis management - shorthand for kidnap negotiation in a worst-case scenario.
Also popular are armoured cars. The leading specialist in this market, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, pegs the number of companies offering top-flight vehicle armour in the Mexican capital at 50, almost double the number five years ago. Piling state-of-the-art materials - including Kevlar, aramid fibres, blast- and bulletproof steels, and 2.1mm-thick ballistic glass - into the bodies of luxury European and American cars, is a $28m-a-year (£16m) industry in Mexico.
But with the simplest armour starting at $20,000 (£11,000), and the cost of providing armed guards for a family of four at $50,000 (£28,000) a year, protection is out of the reach of most Mexico City residents, four of whom are kidnapped on average each day. A further 70 or so a day, meanwhile, are snatched off the streets in what are known as "express" kidnappings, where criminals (often lurking among the city's taxi cabs) force their victims to withdraw money from their bank accounts before releasing them.In late June, up to a million demonstrators dressed in white packed the streets of the city to demand government action in the biggest protest that the country had witnessed in more than a decade. The march, which filled the city's eight-lane Reforma thoroughfare from gutter to gutter, later claimed the scalp of Public Security Minister Alejandro Gertz, who stepped down in the face of such strong criticism.
"The rally's success didn't surprise me as crime is now one of Mexicans' greatest worries, although it may have taken some politicians by surprise," says march organiser Fernando Schutte from the office of his family estate agency in the city's colonial San Angel district. "Public security is the state's primary reason for being, and if it isn't providing it, then you have to go out and demand it. I don't want to hear speeches, I want to see results," he adds.
While Mexico's law enforcement and justice system is choked by corruption and a lack of resources that frustrates the best of political intentions, even the most severely tested in the crime-blighted capital share Schutte's steadfast conviction that the police and criminal-justice system must be made to work.
Among them is accountant Eduardo Gallo, whose 25-year-old daughter, Paola, was snatched four years ago by a kidnap gang and shot dead despite the prompt payment of a ransom. Facing indifference from prosecutors, Gallo singlehandedly tracked down Paola's killers in an 11-month manhunt that took him right up to the US border. Although there were moments when Gallo may have considered exacting his own brand of justice, in the end he simply handed the kidnappers over to the courts.
"It wasn't so much that I had the faith or confidence that the system of justice would work, but the alternative was to kill them," he says. "My parents brought me up with respect for the law, for society and for people's lives, and these were the values that I had passed on to my own children. I couldn't simply throw that aside when faced with a problem."[...]EXPRESS KIDNAPPING: Maria Jose Cuevas, graphic designer, 32Cuevas was pulling up outside her home (where she agreed to be photographed here) in the capital's fashionable La Condesa neighbourhood on a quiet Sunday evening in late spring. As she parked her VW, she felt the presence of a man nearby.
"I turned and saw that he had a pistol. He told me to get in the back of the car, then two more men got in: one up front accompanying the driver, and one in the back with me. All three were about 20 years old and had guns.
"The situation was desperate. I had a pistol pressed into my ankle and another stuck into my ribs. You are in your own space, your car, but you don't have control over it or anything else. Outside, you see life going on as if nothing was happening, and you can't call for help.
"My father is one of the most famous painters in Mexico - Jose Luis Cuevas - and at first I didn't know whether it was a kidnap that would last several days and end in a ransom demand, or if it was a so-called express kidnapping that would last just a couple of hours. But when they asked who my family was, I started to calm down a little as it looked like it was just random.
"They asked for my bank card, and they drove to three or four ATMs to withdraw cash. By sheer luck I only had 10,000 pesos (around £500). I told them to check the balance, and they believed I didn't come from a rich family.
"After they got the money, they carried on driving around and I got very anxious about where they were taking me. They hurl every kind of cliché at you to frighten you. They tell you you are going to sleep in a cellar - like a proper kidnap. They say they are going to take you out on to the highway, implying that they are going to kill or rape you.
"Inside I was dying of fright, but I was chatting to them and outwardly very calm. I was telling them how the situation in Mexico was very difficult, and that I didn't agree with robbery or hold-ups but I understood why they did it. I was becoming their accomplice."After about three hours, they decided to let me go. They parked up in a dark street. When everyone else had got out of the car, the driver reached out and squeezed my shoulder. He stayed looking right into my eyes for a few seconds. It was a little moment in which I felt like he was both trying to ask me to forgive him and thanking me."
KIDNAPPED BY POLICE: Miguel Castillo, marketing director, 35Castillo was leaving the bakery he worked at in the capital's Barranca del Muerto district at around 9.30pm on a spring evening when he found the path to his Volkswagen GTI blocked by a federal police squad car.
"The police forced me to get out of my car, saying that it was stolen. Three or four officers then threw me face down into the back of the car and put their feet on top of me. They drove off with the radio turned on loud so that I couldn't figure out where I was going. I still don't know which route they followed.
"They handed me over to some civilians who held me captive in a safe house. I was stripped naked and placed in a completely dark room with a cement floor. They tied my left hand to a concrete post with wire, and left me there for five nights and six days."Their mistreatment was systematic. They didn't feed me. They beat me frequently, and they told me they were going to kill me. It was a psychological game. When they came for me, they always shoved a torch right in my face so that I couldn't identify them. You feel complete impotence as your life depends entirely on your kidnappers' attitude and moods.
"I had to identify my family and give them their details. It wasn't until the fifth day that they finally got in touch with them. My family was going frantic with worry as they had no idea where I was. They paid a ransom [he declines to say how much] and I was put back into the boot of my car and taken for a drive.
"They left me in the countryside in Morelos state - adjacent to Mexico City. After the sound of voices had receded, I began to call for help. A farmer heard me and helped me to climb out through the back seats. I went to a nearby house and used the phone to call my mother.
"It has left me with a lot of anger because of the situation they put my family in. If I lost a family member or a friend in a kidnapping, I would want to take revenge."
KIDNAPPED IN HIS OWN HOME: Jose Cohen, television producer, 34Cohen was relaxing at home with his wife and three young children when he got a call from work. A colleague needed a telephone number, so he took the lift (which he returned to for the photo you see here) down from his 10th-floor apartment in the capital's swanky Polanco district to fetch his laptop from his car.
"When I pushed the elevator door open, a 9mm pistol was pointing in my face. I was told to close my eyes and look down at the floor, and I just remember seeing a bunch of feet walking into the elevator, at least four of five people. They took me back up to my apartment. It was a kidnap in my own home.
"They took us all into the bedroom where the shower was still on, and they tied my wife and me up. They just said to us, 'Keep cool and nothing is going to happen.' The kids were with us and the little one was crying for his bottle, so that was a little difficult."At first it was very frightening as they were very threatening. They said things like 'You son of a bitch' and 'If you open your eyes, I'll kill you.' But we were lucky because that particular day I had gone to change a cheque as I had to make some payments at the office the following day. I had around $3,000 (£2,000) in my pocket and I gave it to them immediately.
"We are not a Rolex family, so they took my wallet, my wife's jewellery, some antique watches inherited from my grandfather and my DVD player and our mobile phones. They were constantly talking on mobile phones, and only later did we realise they had taken over the whole building and were talking to accomplices in other apartments."After a couple of hours, they left, telling us not to do anything for 45 minutes. I put a chair against the elevator door, which was silly, and turned off the shower. At the end of the day they told me that if we took it easy and played along with their game, they wouldn't hurt us, and that was the most important thing for me, obviously, as I just wanted to protect my family.
"Only later when I checked the call log of my wife's mobile phone did I discover that the kidnappers had used it to call one particular number 17 times. I started to do my own investigation, but then decided to drop it. If you live in a place where there is no rule of law, then it's pretty damn scary to go ahead and do something on your own."