- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A former Cabinet secretary whose daughter was kidnapped more than a year ago said Wednesday that his former drivermay have been responsible and demanded authorities investigate, reviving a case that has fueled outrage over Mexico’s rising tide of abductions.

The high-profile abduction of Nelson Vargas‘ 19-year-old daughter has added to public anger at one of the world’s highest kidnapping rates and frustration over law enforcement’s ineffectiveness and alleged collaboration with criminals.

“I have cried. I have begged. I am now demanding that Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna resolve this case,” Vargas said during a news conference in which he struggled to steady his voice and hold back tears.

“Find my daughter. Find my Silvia,” he said.

Vargas, a former national sports commissioner, said someone who had seen news coverage of the case came to him with information that his former driver, Oscar Ortiz, was the brother of one of Mexico’s most wanted kidnapping suspects. He angrily asked how police missed that fact in the “one year, two months and six days” since his daughter was seized.

The attorney general’s office confirmed that the Ortiz brothers had long been wanted on suspicion of belonging to a kidnapping gang known as “The Reds.” But the department said investigators did not know that Ortiz had worked for the family until Vargas informed them of that fact on Oct. 9.

A month later, Oscar Ortiz was captured in southern Mexico and is being investigated in the Vargas kidnapping, although he denies involvement, the department said.

His brother, Raul Ortiz, had sentenced to 16 years in prison for kidnapping in 1996, but escaped from prison in 2000 by hiding in a clothes container that was being removed from the prison, authorities in Guerrero state said Wednesday. He was detained again years later in Mexico City, but in September he escaped again from a hospital where he was receiving treatment.

Silvia Vargas was kidnapped in September 2007 as she drove to her university.

Her family went public with the case in August, begging the kidnappers to hand over the girl. Her mother hung banners with her daughter’s photograph across Mexico City and launched a public campaign for information in the case _ one of several prominent kidnappings to shake Mexico.

Earlier this year, the 14-year-old son of Mexican sporting goods magnate Alejandro Marti was kidnapped and killed, even though his family reportedly paid a ransom. That case prompted more than 100,000 people to march through Mexico City to demand an end to police corruption and rising crime.

Vargas said a “brave person gave him information” that his ex-driver and the ex-driver’s brother were part of a kidnapping gang.

He said the driver worked for him for two years until he was fired on suspicion of stealing and he “knew the movements of my whole family perfectly.”

Non-governmental groups claim Mexico has one of the world’s highest kidnapping rates, surpassing Colombia.

Kidnappings in Mexico are up 9 percent this year and average 65 per month nationwide, according to the attorney general’s office.

But most abductions go unreported for fear of police involvement. The nonprofit Citizens’ Institute for Crime Studies estimates the real kidnapping rate at more than 500 per month nationwide.

President Felipe Calderon has proposed life sentences for kidnappers.

The attorney general’s office announced a new initiative Wednesday: the installation of 334 complaint boxes across the country where Mexicans can denounce police corruption or incompetence.

In the border city of Tijuana, more than 2,500 people gathered at an auditorium Wednesday to pray for peace and an end to the violence in an interfaith ceremony.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide