Mexico's government announced that the country's police had liberated more than 4,000 kidnap victims in the last two years, an impressive number, but one that also points to the scale of the problem.
The Public Security Ministry (SSP) stated that federal and state police had freed 4,298 kidnap victims since 2010, with the federal branch accounting for 1,186 of these cases. Of these, 236 were in 2010, 743 in 2011, and 117 so far this year, reports Milenio.
During the same two-year period, authorities dismantled 695 criminal organizations involved in the practice and arrested 4,638 alleged kidnappers, according to the SSP.
InSight Crime Analysis
According to a government report released last year, kidnappings in Mexico have increased by some 300 percent since 2005. However, estimates vary wildly on how many cases occur annually. Government figures say the country averaged between three·and six kidnappings per day in 2011, while the Council for Human Rights Law (CLDH) put the number at 49 per day. The CLDH figure did not include "express kidnappings" where victims are held for a matter of hours for a small ransom.
Though some of Mexico's larger criminal organizations, such as the Zetas and Gulf Cartel, carry out kidnapping as a way of diversifying their revenue streams, many of the bands involved are relatively unsophisticated, as shown by the number of organizations dismantled in the last two years.
While the rate of police success may have countered the rise in kidnappings, questions are still being asked about the effectiveness of Mexican authorities. For example, it is possible that the police may include the release in an express kidnapping, where no authorities became involved, as a case of "liberation" in order to boost their figures.
A recent New York Times article pointed to the plight of a Mexican family, 18 members of which were kidnapped last year in the border town of Matamoros. Five members of the family remain missing, despite a ransom being paid. Mexico's authorities have apparently done little to bring those responsible to justice, even though the location of the alleged perpetrators is well known, according to the article. This government inertia has contributed to the country's endemic impunity.
The government of Felipe Calderon last year imposed a new anti-kidnapping program, aiming to increase the effectiveness of combating the crime by creating specialized units and strengthening information-sharing between the state and federal levels, as well as between prosecutors. As the Matamoros case attests, however, this program is still very much in its infancy.