[…] In Mexico, with its history of drug-war violence and corrupt police, kidnapping is an old story. In the past, the crime tended to target the rich. Now it has become more egalitarian. Victims these days are often shopkeepers, taxi drivers, service employees, parking attendants and taco vendors who often work in cash or in Mexico’s “informal” economy. Targets also tend to be young — students, with parents willing to pay ransoms, are commonly targeted.

“The phenomenon has changed. Now it’s the workers, the people in the informal economy, because they are the ones who have access to money quickly,” said Isabel Miranda de Wallace, an anti-kidnapping activist in Mexico. “We have never seen as many kidnappings as we are seeing now.”

Last year, Mexico officially recorded 1,698 kidnappings, the highest number on record. Yet government officials concede that only a small percentage of victims — 1 in 10 by some estimates — report the crime, as police are sometimes involved in kidnappings and not trusted. The statistics kept by Miranda’s organization, Association to Stop Kidnapping (Asociacion Alto al Secuestro), recorded 3,038 kidnappings last year. Another, led by Fernando Ruiz Canales, a former kidnapping victim who now helps negotiate for the release of hostages, puts last year’s kidnapping total at 27,740, or 76 per day.

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