By now most Americans are aware of last week’s barbaric murder of reporter James Foley by an Islamic terrorist. Captured on video, the incident has rightly spurred worldwide outrage and condemnation.
It also has highlighted the growing phenomenon of kidnapping — a crime which is reaching epidemic proportions in many countries, including some far closer to home.
Foley was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 while working as a freelance journalist covering a country torn apart by civil war. Some say he assumed the risk of harm working in such a dangerous part of the world.
That same assumption of risk is increasingly being associated with American tourists traveling in Mexico. In fact, Mexico had more “sequestros” — or kidnappings for ransom as they’re referred to in Spanish — than even Afghanistan, Colombia or Iraq in 2013.
Kidnappings are becoming so rampant in the country, Mexican officials are calling it a national emergency, according to The Associated Press.
Official figures say Mexicans reported 1,695 kidnappings last year, a 20 percent increase over 2012. But experts estimate more than 90 percent of kidnappings go unreported.
The country’s National Institute of Statistics has said based on extrapolations from reported cases, the number of kidnappings in the first nine months of 2013 could exceed 105,000. That is a shocking number by any measure.
One group that monitors kidnappings in the country reported that on average 76 people a day are kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico.
Kidnappings are nothing new in Mexico. The country has a long history of drug-related violence and corrupt police. What is new, according to many observers, is that the crime is becoming more egalitarian and impacting more ordinary citizens. It’s clear more criminals are getting into the kidnapping game.
In the past, the crime tended to target the rich. These days victims often include shopkeepers, taxi drivers, service employees and students with parents willing to pay ransoms.
They also include tourists which has prompted repeated warnings from the U.S. Department of State for any American traveling or working in Mexico.
James Foley’s captors reportedly demanded a ransom of about $132 million. By way of contrast, people are being abducted in Mexico by low-level criminals who are willing to release them for as little as $60.
It is an indication of the degree of lawlessness in a country that borders the United States.