Gang kidnaps 11 from Mexico City bar

Group of young people taken hostage in broad daylight

A drummer leads a procession for the memorial service for Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York last night. Mr Shabazz died on May 9th in a popular tourist area of Mexico City after being assaulted outside a bar, the authorities said. Photograph: Michael Appleton/The New York Times

A drummer leads a procession for the memorial service for Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York last night. Mr Shabazz died on May 9th in a popular tourist area of Mexico City after being assaulted outside a bar, the authorities said. Photograph: Michael Appleton/The New York Times

 

Eleven young people were brazenly kidnapped in broad daylight from an after-hours bar in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa, a normally calm district of offices, restaurants, drinking spots and dance clubs.

The apparent mass abduction happened on Sunday morning just off the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s main boulevard, near the Angel of Independence monument and close to the US Embassy.

The incident was the second recent high-publicity blemish for the city’s largely unregulated entertainment scene, coming 20 days after the grandson of American civil rights activist Malcolm X was beaten to death at another tough bar.

Calling for authorities to find their loved ones, family members marched yesterday from the Interior Department building to the Zocalo, the city’s main square.

Later they protested outside the bar, which bears a sign that reads Bicentenario Restaurante-Bar, and demanded to see its surveillance video.

“How could so many people have disappeared, just like that, in broad daylight?” said Josefina Garcia, mother of Said Sanchez Garcia (19), her only son. “The police say they don’t have them, so what, the earth just opened up and swallowed them?”

She said her son was not involved in any criminal activity, and worked at a market stall selling beauty products.

City prosecutors said they had received 11 missing-person reports, but Ms Garcia said residents of the tough neighbourhood of Tepito where the victims live thought as many as 15 or 16 people could have been abducted. The known missing include six men, most in their 20s, a 16-year-old boy and four young women.

While no clear motives had been revealed in the attack, residents of Tepito said there has been a wave of abductions of young people in recent months that could be related to organised crime activities. Tepito is the centre of black market activities in the city, where guns, drugs, stolen goods and contraband are widely sold.

Mass abductions have been rare in Mexico City, but are common in parts of the country where drug cartels operate and are fighting with rival gangs over territory.

Prosecutors placed closure stickers on the front doors of the Mexico City bar yesterday, with inscriptions saying the city’s anti-kidnapping unit was investigating abductions at the site.

Isabel Fonseca, whose brother is among those missing, said a man who escaped told her that masked men arrived in several white SUVs and took the group away. She said her brother, Eulogio Fonseca, is a street vendor who sells mobile phone accessories. “We want them alive,” Ms Fonseca said. “They went out to have fun; they are not criminals.”

Mexico City’s chief prosecutor, Rodolfo Rios, said investigators had been able to glean very little information on the disappearances.

Relatives believe the youths were at the club, which they said is called Heaven, when waiters and bar employees herded them out to the street and armed men bundled them into waiting vehicles and spirited them away.

Mr Rios said police had not located any employees of the bar and no other witnesses had presented themselves.

Bars of questionable character are often allowed to continue operating, even though drugs may be sold inside and the businesses frequently violate rules governing closing times, parking and serving alcohol to children.

Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of the late Malcolm X, died on May 9th in a fight that erupted after he and a friend were presented with a $1,200 US dollar bill at a seedy bar near Plaza Garibaldi, a gathering place for mariachi bands in a rough neighbourhood.

Two waiters at the bar have been arrested in connection with his death.

AP