An average of 72 people were kidnapped daily this year in Mexico, often times in incidents unrelated to the country’s drug war, according to a Mexican nongovernmental organization.
The numbers reported by the Council for Law and Human Rights differ sharply from official figures, creating confusion over the degree to which the crime -- which often goes unreported -- has expanded in recent years.
Fernando Ruiz, the director of the Mexican NGO that works with victims of kidnappings, told Spanish news wire EFE the figures marked an increase over the group's number for last year of 51 cases per day.
If the numbers are accurate, they would make Mexico the kidnapping center of the world. But according to news and analysis site InSight Crime, there are reasons to be skeptical:
Little information has been provided on the methodology used by the CLDH. What's more, if their figures are close to being true, it would mark an alarming rate when considering that Colombia -- formerly considered the kidnap capital of the world -- had a rate of 8 reported cases per day when kidnapping was at its peak in 2002.
Ruiz said cases sometimes involve police.
“With a uniform and a gun, they get power and they use that power to commit crimes and abuses,” Ruiz said of the police.
Because of lack of national data, the figures do not include cases of “express kidnapping,” in which victims are rapidly released for relatively small sums of money.
Official figures from the Federal Police reported Thursday by Mexican daily El Informador place the number of kidnappings attributable to organized crime much lower, at 4,671 over the six-year Felipe Calderón administration -- an average of about two per day, though cases have multiplied over the last two years.
Mexico has also seen a rise in “virtual kidnappings” in this month, in which criminals try to trick people over the telephone into paying ransom for family members they haven’t actually kidnapped, according to Azteca Noticias.