Many people have no idea how life is here in Mexico, so I wanted to explain some things here. I want to make some clarifications about kidnappings in Mexico.
Increasing Frequency of Kidnappings
As time moves on, we see more and more kidnappings. Whereas years back, kidnappings were things of the news, today kidnappings have been issues that increasing get closer and closer to our daily lives. It is now (Oct 2013) getting so that we hear of somebody almost every week that personally knows a person that was kidnapped or attempted to be kidnapped. One Christian brother in a sister church had several pizzas parlors (all take out), and his brothers and sisters had similar restaurants. His brother was kidnapped and they asked for around a half million dollars, which is a lot of money here. They wanted the entire family to sell all the pizza parlors and give them the money. The family evaluated the value of their holdings and their houses and came up with half that amount. When they told the kidnappers that, the kidnappers insisted on the full amount. They gave them 6 months or they would kill the fellow. They couldn’t get the money together, and the kidnappers stopped calling. The last call they made they told the friend of ours that he was their next target. His brother is now missing over a year, and the police don’t think he is alive.
In another case, a friend of ours had his son shot in front of his house at 4 PM on a Monday. The man that died has a wife and two teenage girls. They were trying to rob his father who had just gone to the bank. The banks here have had so many cases of kidnappers paying bank employees to find out the balances and movements of people’s accounts (especially moving to and from stock market funds) that ALL BANKS HERE have now taken a policy where the tellers cannot tell you what you balance is. You have to go to an ATM and log in to find out. In most kidnapping cases, the kidnappers will tell you exactly your balances in which banks, and even your bank accounts and the limits about withdrawals, etc. They are highly organized and have a lot of intelligence on that matter.
We have a thing that they call “Secuestro Expres” or Express Kidnappings. The bad guys wait around an ATM that doesn’t have a lot of people, and when they see somebody (usually after dark) trying to get money out, they come up and force you to take out your daily maximum, and sometimes hold you until after midnight to take out another daily maximum. Then they let you go. This is very common, and it has made the situation difficult, because you cannot get your balance or know your movements by going to the teller inside the bank, so there are lines of 20-40 people at the outside ATMs sometimes. This makes for a confusing situation, and a lot of problems.
Believe or not, the kidnappings of children have become very common, because if you kidnap a businessman, he cannot get his money out of business accounts. So what they do is kidnap his kid. If he doesn’t give what they want, they will send a finger or ear or something to the parents. That usually gets them moving and breaks down anything they might try to resist. So what is a phone kidnapping. Very simply it works this way. Your grammar school kid goes to school normal, and about an hour later, you get a phone call (usually a grandparent that is caring for the child is who they hit). He is told to go out and buy a $50 dollar phone calling card (usually a half dozen or dozen or more), and return to the house in an hour. In an hour they will call again for the secret codes, and if they are not there, then they will kill the child. The time is tight, and they are told not to call anyone else because their phone lines and cell phones are being monitored, as well as they house being watched. Many go out and buy the phone cards, and return and give them the codes to use them over the phone when they call back. They ask about the child, and they say that they will release him that afternoon. In a while the child comes home from school and knows nothing about it.
Some parents call the school (smart thing to do) but since the kids here play hooky regularly from school, they just didn’t show up.
What they have found is that in the prisons here, the state doesn’t want to provide them with food, so the family has to do that, and that means bringing food every day or two to their loved one in jail. So what they do is smuggle in a cell phone in this daily interchange of things with the prisoners, and this is how the prisoners make money for themselves (for cigarettes or alcohol which are both smuggled in also). The phone calls are traced to a prison facility on a burn phone. Their family members give them the person’s phone number and details, and sometimes they even get somebody in the prison with a voice that sounds like a kid to be screaming in the background like they are torturing him while they are making their demands. They quickly sell the phone card numbers the same day for cash at a discounted price.
US Immigration has your cousin Bernie!
Another one going around here is a phone call from somewhere that says that they are US immigration or police somewhere, and that they have detained a Mexican young man that has identified you as his uncle. They play it so that they ask if you have a nephew in the US? Yes you answer. What is his name? Bernie? Okay then this is him. You need to send $2000 dollars immediately or they will put him into a federal prison, blah, blah, blah, etc. The trick is to get you to say his name first, and then they latch onto it.
This is the Michocan Family Mob. Pay for our protection or else
With the age of the Internet (and stupid government that puts personal information on the Internet, in public or even behind passwords), bad people can find out a lot of information about you. So far two separate members of our church have received calls from the Michocan Family Mob here in Mexico, and the routine is that they ask if you live at such and such address (correct), and your family members are (list) including children, and that your children go to such and such school, and they enter at such and such time, and they leave at such and such time. After giving you a lot of personal information about yourself, you ask what this is all about. Then they say that they have their people in your neighborhood watching your kids and you, and you have to deposit money into a bank account for protection or something bad will happen.
Pray for our Safety
We ask that you would pray for the safety of our family as well as the families in our church.