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A Mexican Telenovela Actor Was Kidnapped At A Popular National Park And His Kidnappers Demanded A Ransome

2019 has been one of the most violent years in contemporary Mexican history. The new government headed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised a new era of “amor y paz” (his words!) and “abrazos no balazos” (hugs instead of bullets) as a way to fight crime on a local and federal levels.

However, reality has hit hard and the year will likely end up with close to 40,000 murders. That is an overwhelmingly dark figure that will hang on the AMLO presidency like a bad omen. Besides murder, kidnapping has seen numbers raise as organized crime networks , among them drug cartels, look for alternative sources of revenue. A recent case put the spotlight on forced abductions and the government’s response to these as the victims were high profile and the crime took place in a popular touristy spot that is generally unlikely to be safety concern. 

El Nevado de Toluca is a snowy volcano that attracts climbers from all over the world.

Credit: Plan B Viajero / Instagram

It is located in the State of Mexico, which borders the capital Mexico City. The state has faced some pretty serious challenges in terms of security as it presents abysmal social differences, being home to some of the richest and the poorest of Mexicans. The state is home to Mexico’s thriving manufacturing boom, but also to some of the fiercest criminal groups, some of which have made kidnapping their modus operandi.

A group of tourists were kidnapped and the newly formed National Guard was called into action. One of the victims is French, which presents all sorts of diplomatic trouble.

Credit: Notigram

According to reports from El Universal newspaper in Mexico, last Sunday November 24 a group of tourists that were travelling by van to the upper section of El Nevado were intercepted by kidnappers. The tourists were travelling in two vans, a Jeep and a Toyota, according to reports. As one of the tourists is French, the event became an international affair which affects Mexico’s already battered reputation.

According to Fox News, French authorities have already joined the investigation: “The ministry said French officials were working closely with Mexican authorities to secure his return”. The fact that French authorities will get involved in the investigation is a sign of international cooperation, of course, but also a blow to the credibility of AMLO’s security cabinet and of the administration of State of Mexico’s governor Alfredo Del Mazo Maza, who has harbored some presidential aspirations and comes from one of the most powerful political families in the country. 

Mexican actor Alejandro Sandi is also among the victims.

Credit: Alejandro Sandi

According to Mexico Daily News, the victims have been fully identified: “Unofficial reports state that the actor was Alejandro Sandi, 37, who has appeared in a number of television series including the popular telenovela El Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies). The French tourist was identified as Frederic Michel.”

The two men were kidnapped while their companions were left free by the criminals. According to MDN, this is what the witnesses stated: “The kidnappers forced her [Sandi’s companion] and another friend out of the car and escaped in it, taking the actor with them. Meanwhile, Mathieu Noirot Julien told police a similar story. He said that he and his friend Michel were riding in a Toyota truck when they were forced to stop. The kidnappers forced him out and took the truck with Michel in it”. 

The kidnappers have already asked for a ransom.

Alfonso Durazo, boss supreme of Mexican federal security forces, revealed that the kidnappers have already asked for a ransom, and that the case could end soon. Durazo did not provide further details other than stating that the right protocol had been activated. This sounds optimistic, but negotiations can hit a wall and kidnappings in Mexico are known to be lengthy, tortuous situations.

As noted, kidnappings have increased in relation to 2018. As MDN reports: “According to the National Public Security System (SESNSP), kidnappings have increased by 9% in the first year of President López Obrador’s administration. There were 1,273 reported kidnappings from January to October 2018, and 1,392 in the same period in 2019, amounting to 119 more cases during the new administration”. It is important to note that kidnapping victims are not only high-profile individuals: basically anyone is at risk. Kidnappings known as “secuestros express” have been a constant in Mexico City life since the 1990s: they consist in an abduction whereby the victim is taken from ATM to ATM until their accounts are completely drained. They are then left to their own devices in an faraway and isolated area in the outskirts of the city. 

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