Mexico frees 73 suspected kidnap victims near US border
Some had been held for up to four months while captors demanded payment from families
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December, pledging to reduce violence linked to drug cartels in the country, which had soared under his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters
Seventy-three suspected kidnap victims were rescued in northern Mexico near the border city of Reynosa after police followed their alleged captors to a house and heard frantic calls for help, authorities said yesterday.
Of the victims, 37 were Mexicans, 19 were from Honduras, 14 from Guatemala and another three from El Salvador, federal police said in a statement. Among the victims were women and minors, some of whom reported having been sexually abused.
Police held three suspects, who were believed to have taken their victims on buses or at bus stations, the statement said. Some of the victims had been held for up to four months while their captors demanded payment from their families, police said.
Police also seized weapons and drugs found at the house, including nearly 700 rounds of bullets, a hand grenade and almost 10,000 kilograms (22,046 lbs) of what was believed to be marijuana.
In 2010, 72 migrants, including dozens of Central Americans, were found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas in an incident linked to Mexico’s brutal Zetas cartel.
News of the rescue came as public worries over lawlessness have increased in Mexico, according to a new poll published by Mexico’s national statistics agency, INEGI.
The poll taken in March and April showed that 72.3 per cent of Mexican adults said they felt that their home state was unsafe, up from 66.6 per cent during the same period a year earlier.
Mr Calderon sent in the armed forces to bring drug traffickers to heel but killings rose as the cartels splintered.
Around 70,000 people died in the explosion of gang-related violence under Mr Calderon, and the homicide count has eased under Pena Nieto.
However, the bloody turf wars are still claiming almost 1,000 lives a month, according to official figures.