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Lagos de Moreno plagued by kidnappings

July 22, 2013

Crowned one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” only last year, the once-sleepy town of Lagos de Moreno in northeastern Jalisco has been hit by a spate of kidnappings in recent weeks.

Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of at least seven youths in the last month, but the authorities have yet to locate any of the victims. Concerned residents and distraught family members have put up posters of the missing in public places, while their images are also being circulated via online social media – all seemingly to little avail.

The first of the most recent cases came on June 26, when Luis Fernando Ramos Mendoza was abducted at around 10.30 a.m. by men in a green pickup with the license plate JHK9727.

Then, on the night of July 6, Angel de Jesus Rodriguez Hernandez, 19, Eduardo Isaias Ramirez Hernandez, 21, Daniel Armando Espinoza Hernandez, 22, and Jose Gerardo Aguilar Martinez, 18, disappeared after leaving for a party at a friend’s house in the Paseos de la Montaña neighborhood near the Preparatoria Regional run by the University of Guadalajara (UdeG).  The same night, Marco Antonio Ramirez Cardenas, 19, and Cristian Fabian Avila Cardona, 18, went missing while on their way to another party at a different address.

Although all of the parents filed complaints, the Prosecutor General’s Office (FGE) has only opened an investigation into the group of four who disappeared on July 6, according to several Mexican media outlets.

Gripped by fear but also angry that little progress has been made in the investigation, hundreds of local residents marched twice last week to demand that the authorities locate the victims and stop insinuating that they were linked to organized crime.

“I haven’t lost my puppy, this is my son we’re talking about,” Armando Espinoza, the father of one of the victims, told Spanish-language daily El Informador. Exasperated at the municipal police department’s failure to prevent the kidnappings, Espinoza asked, “How is it possible that the police are patrolling at night … but they see nothing? You think they don’t see a strange car circulating? Why don’t they stop it?”

A breakthrough finally came at the weekend, when FGE agents raided three farm houses where the victims could have been held, making at least four arrests in the process. In one of the properties agents discovered drugs and chemical precursors used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs, as well as tools that could have been used for torture, Informador reported.

Despite the arrests, the victims’ whereabouts remain unknown, although a body was found in a cave in Lagos de Moreno on Friday. Wrapped in a black bag, the corpse had been decomposing for days and forensic experts are still working to identify the victim and the cause of death.

The aforementioned youths are not the only residents of Lagos de Moreno to have been kidnapped this year. Jose Wilfrido Mejia Vazquez, 18, his father Jose Wilfrido Mejia Diaz, 44, and a friend of theirs, professor Humberto Rincon Garcia, all disappeared in the early hours of May 25 after attending a social gathering in the Adelita neighbourhood. In other recent cases, a local man was reportedly found dead just hours after being abducted, while another managed to escape from his captors, but was shot in the leg and back and had to be hospitalized.

Locals believe the total number of abductions this year could be as high as 30, according to Roberto Castelan, the principal of the municipality’s UdeG campus, who is serving as a spokesperson for the victims. Castelan has also bemoaned the lack of the attention the case is receiving in comparison to the extensive media coverage of the “most unfortunate” kidnapping of two 15-year-olds in Guadalajara, who were eventually found dead last month.

“You can imagine the impact the kidnapping of five people has on a city much smaller than Guadalajara, but since they are now talking about [the disappearance of] 30 people, this has a massive impact,” Castelan told Informador.

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