Ransom Notes: Serial Kidnapping in Mexico

Kidnapping in Mexico forces a member of the beleaguered business class to cross the border to escape violence and extortion

| March/April 2012

“Somebody’s taken Carlos.” Ana couldn’t quite believe what her cousin had just told her over the phone. How could it be true? Ana had been preparing her three young children for bed. The maid was cleaning up in the kitchen. A place was still set for Carlos, her husband, at the dinner table. He hadn’t arrived home yet, but that wasn’t unusual. He often worked late at his factory. She stared at Carlos’ untouched place setting. It couldn’t be true.

“They just called,” her cousin said with more urgency. “Grab the kids and come to Brownsville.” Ana, 41, hung up and tried to remain calm. She didn’t want to panic the children.

Her cell phone rang again. This time it was Carlos, his voice shaking. “I’ve been kidnapped, and they want $800,000.”

“Please tell me you’re OK,” Ana said.

“What money do you have right now?” he asked. Ana and Carlos had done well in Matamoros, but everything they had was invested in his business and the house. They had no more than $1,000 in their bank account. “You know I don’t have anything,” she said. “What do you want me to do?”

Suddenly, a man’s gruff voice came on the line. “We’re not playing games. We’re going to kill him if you don’t give us the money.” The line went dead.