M E X I C O
WHERE WAS GUTIÉRREZ?
IF YOU BELIEVE THE LETTER HE SENT the Universal newspaper, Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, Mexico's most knowledgeable intelligence expert, was "outside Mexico enjoying vacation." If you believe rumors that started circulating when he dropped out of public sight two weeks ago, he is one of the country's highest-ranking politicians ever kidnapped. That version goes like this: Gutiérrez was driving in the capital after lunch when two cars cut him off and eight heavily armed men whisked him away. By Friday Gutiérrez was reportedly back safe at home, but he had still not been seen in public, and his family remained mum.
It is common for families in Mexico to avoid publicity in kidnapping cases and simply pay whatever ransom is demanded. Police are notoriously inept at rescue attempts. As in Colombia and Brazil, kidnapping has become rampant in Mexico, with hundreds of cases a year, an American businessman help for eight days was released just last week after his family paid an undisclosed ransom. However, the abduction of Gutiérrez would be a new twist. It seems likely that he would be targeted not for his wealth but for what knows. For four decades he worked in Mexican intelligence, rising as high as minister of governing, the cabinet post in charge of internal security, under former president Carlos Salinas. In other words, he knew state secrets, the sort of information that would be of use to drug lords, politicians and guerrillas. Editorials are already referring to him as a "political kidnapee."
NEWSWEEK, DECEMBER 29, 1997
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