Sunday 11 December 2011

Articles for InSight Crime

I just wrote two pieces for InSight Crime. The first, titled Mexican Businesses Forced to Pay Up or Play Along with Criminal Groups, provides a take on the aggressive extortion economy that is plaguing Mexican businesses. The second, titled The Zetas Take to the Air, offers a close examination of what might be behind the recent capture of telecom gear in the northeastern and eastern parts of Mexico. At the same time that my article came out, NPR ran a story referencing Scott Stewart, "a former special agent with the U.S. State Department and now an analyst with the private intelligence firm Stratfor in Austin, Texas." Stewart had information that is an important addendum to my piece - the fact that the Zetas are almost certainly getting some, if not all, of their telecommunications knowledge from kidnapped Nextel technicians. To quote from the end of the NPR article (also in audio format):

Over the past two years, at least 13 cellphone network technicians have been abducted in northeastern Mexico. None of them have returned alive. Two radio communication specialists working for the state-run oil company Pemex disappeared in 2010 and were later found dead. The other 11 remain missing.

In the northeastern state of Coahuila, Blanca Martinez works with a support group for family members of the disappeared. She says in 2009, a group of Nextel technicians who were repairing cell towers in Tamaulipas were abducted from their hotel. Martinez says it wasn't a normal kidnapping.

She says there has never been a ransom demand in any of the cases involving telecommunications workers. Martinez says this is quite unusual in kidnappings. Wives of several missing Nextel workers say they believe their husbands are still being forced to work for the cartels

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