Alejandro arrived in Mexico City like so many other migrants, fleeing a reality that was suffocating him. Like so many others, upon arrival he was greeted by the most violent face in Mexico. It took four hours in the country to reduce his illusion of a better life to a much less ambitious one: preserving life. He was kidnapped at the airport in the capital by those who had just promised him a chance for the future. In less than the time it takes for a tourist to leave the building, the young Venezuelan was kidnapped and handed over to a gang of hit men acting on behalf of a certain Mencho. Like few with his luck, six days later he was rescued by the police from a house where alleged members of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel operated, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the country and whose leader is Nemesio. The Mencho Oseguera. “I did not want to die as they usually kill here,” he says in an interview with EL PAÍS. Alejandro is not his real name, he prefers to protect it for fear that the poster will return for him.
From Yaracuy to Mexico City
Alejandro’s family hired the service of a group of coyotes from Maracaibo who had promised to take him out of a small town in northern Venezuela, take him to Colombia and put him on a plane to the North American country. So it happened. Until arrival at the Benito Juárez Airport, everything was running as the coyotes had arranged. At 22 years old and with a boyish face, the young man set foot in Mexico last Friday, June 25, around five in the morning. He passed immigration control at 7.26, according to a record that this newspaper had access to. But it was not so easy: after registering the income, the agent of the National Institute of Migration (INM) held him “for a second review” in a room for about two hours, he says. “They held me as giving a chance for people to come looking for me.” There is no official record regarding that second review, as confirmed by an INM spokesperson to EL PAÍS.
After nine in the morning, almost two hours after passing immigration control, they give him the green light to leave. “They let me go, and at the door a federal tells me that I have to give him $ 100 to let me leave the airport. I give him the 100 dollars and there he tells me that they are waiting for me at the exit ”. Until that moment, Alejandro thought that it was all part of the service that his family had paid to the coyotes. A white Ford Fusion car was waiting for him at the gate of Terminal 2 of the airport. A former agent of the Federal Police, today investigated in the judicial case, told him to go up. “One, as he is from the province, and partly also due to nerves …”. He pauses and goes back to: “I get on and they tell me that I am kidnapped.” Four hours have passed since his arrival in Mexico and his nightmare is just beginning.
The two men carrying him are armed. They ask for the money he has on him, his phone number and his identity documents. They leave him in a safe house supposedly owned by the Jalisco Cartel on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. “Everything was closed there, the windows were painted so that no one could see inside, the head of the organization was waiting for me, he sat me in an armchair and showed me all the weapons they have. They show you the videos of Mr. Mencho’s poster and they say: ‘Look how we do, cutting off people’s heads, machine-gunning them on the floor.’ That’s what they tell you is going to happen ”. By then those in the car will have already returned to the airport to fish for more migrants.
Between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000 per head
In the six days that Alejandro spent in that house, most of the time he was locked in a room where there is only a mattress on the floor and a bathroom. The place, as he recalls, is precarious, but it has three floors, a garage and a lot of rooms where they lock up the new victims every day. “They had their weapons, their drugs, and the kidnapped people. Cocaine use was constant, ”he says. Nobody gets there by chance: they were sold to the cartel by different groups of coyotes. “In this case, the group of Venezuelans was in charge of contacting the person through social media and then deliver it [en México]. They received between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars for each one they delivered. ” The Mexican side of the business was in charge of the “kidnapping and negotiation.” The young Venezuelan counted eight Mexicans who participated in his kidnapping.
Nor did they leave room for mistakes. All the intermediaries in the line of events that led Alexander to that house knew his face, his name. They all had his photograph, they knew how he was dressed. “It is completely fixed, they knew where it came from, what flight, what time it was going to arrive. They are in complete complicity with the people at the airport ”. Alejandro spent the six days listening to the alleged cartel members talking to each other and on the phone. From these conversations, he has learned that they operate from Monday to Friday, that they have three safe houses in the capital, that the largest center of operations for the trafficking network is in Monterrey, where that week they had about 40 people kidnapped.
Another 12 kidnapped migrants passed through the place where Alejandro was held. All Latin Americans who came to Mexico with the illusion of rebuilding their lives in a new country. Most were women with children. Of some he did not know again. “They told you: ‘We are going to get you out.’ But they didn’t tell you where they were taking you. The people who left, left and that’s it. I don’t know if they are dead or alive ”. The speculations fueled by the threats of the kidnappers were the worst enemy in the confinement. “It devastates you completely, you start to rave and ask God to do his will. If it’s taking your life, let them do it quickly, because the way they usually kill is very cruel ”. Alejandro can tell me about what happened during those days because he was attentive and, above all, calm. He already had experience in critical situations. In Venezuela, he says, he had been persecuted and tortured on several occasions by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) for his activism as a student leader.
Sell everything to pay the ransom
Alejandro’s family in Venezuela spent the first three days without hearing from him. He had arrived in Mexico and his phone had been disconnected. Some city-dwelling friends spent hours searching for him between airline windows and landing gates. They thought that the immigration authorities had detained him, but no one answered them anything. The airport had swallowed him up. After 48 hours of not having news, on Sunday they filed a disappearance complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office.
The first contact that the young man’s father had with the kidnappers was through WhatsApp on the third day of arrival. An alleged agent of the Federal Ministerial Police of the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic wrote him a message on Monday after 9 pm from a telephone with characteristics of the State of Morelos. “I need you to call me back by this means,” he said. In the call they informed him that they were not policemen and that Alejandro had been kidnapped. There began the swing of negotiations. “They were very rude,” recalls the young man. How much can you get from a family whose child has emigrated from a country with one of the biggest economic crises in the region due to lack of work?
“I will sell the belongings that I have left,” Alejandro’s father repeated those days from Caracas. The negotiator on behalf of the kidnappers was no more than 25 years old, and according to what he told the victims, he knew a lot of people in the city and ran two nightclubs. For the kidnapped boy, an uncle living in the United States negotiated, whom the cartel believed could get more money from him. “The mafias take advantage to economically exploit our diaspora, the Venezuelans [captados] They must have identity documents, be young and, most importantly, people in the US capable of paying for them, ”says the father. The kidnappers first asked for $ 14,000, a huge amount for the finances of the family, who had already used their savings to pay the coyotes. Finally they offered what they had, about $ 1,500 that they got to collect.
“I’ll be thinking of you”
The last call from Mexico City to Caracas was on Tuesday, the fifth day of the kidnapping. “I talked to my son and he said, ‘Dad, pay what you have to see if they let me go. If you do not do it and I find myself with the bad hour, I will be thinking about you ”. The amount that the family had raised was very low compared to what the alleged cartel had asked for. That made Alejandro think that it would not be enough. “If the family doesn’t pay, they force you to pay with work. It all depends on what the head of the cartel decides, I had to kidnap people for them or sell drugs ”. His gaze falls and he murmurs: “Most likely they killed me and I didn’t want to die like they usually kill here.”
After paying the ransom, the kidnappers cut communication for 24 hours. Nothing is known. On Wednesday, one day after the payment, the Prosecutor’s Office reports that Alejandro has been rescued. “The SEIDO has it [Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada]”Confirms a spokesman for the FGR to EL PAÍS. Along with him, six other migrants who were in the cartel’s safe house were rescued. Two Venezuelans and five Ecuadorians. Three men and four women. Three of the victims were minors.
Alejandro has the feeling that the kidnappers knew that the police would come that Wednesday. In the morning all the weapons and drugs had been removed from the house. When the police officers arrived there were only a few members of the gang left: two guards, a woman who cooked and one who was in charge of cleaning the place. All the hostages had been gathered at the back of the second floor. “Something was happening, but we did not know what,” he says. “I hear the gate being kicked, and [los delincuentes] they begin to mobilize, to try to contain the police. They did not have time to confront them, they only tried to bribe them with money, but they could not. “
In the investigation folder, says the young man, there are photographs of each of the members of the gang, images at the airport or at the ATMs where they went to withdraw the ransom money. Details of the cars and the clothes they used. “The Prosecutor’s Office already knows who they are.” But most of them are still at large, he says. Despite the testimony of the victims, the judicial investigation also dodges the thorny issue of the possible involvement of the INM in the network. A spokesman for the FGR has confirmed that they are not part of the investigation and the immigration authorities have assured that they have no record of any complaint against their agents for this matter. The National Guard, in charge of security at the airport, has not responded to this newspaper’s request for information.
The encounter with the most violent face of Mexico has robbed Alejandro of the desire to stay in the country. “You bring all your hopes, your resources put into this journey, and it’s very devastating.” His future holds a judicial process in which he will have to face alleged members of a cartel that in recent times has gained a reputation for being one of the most bloodthirsty. Every time he thinks about it, a paralyzing fear enters him. “I know that my life is in danger. All I want now is to stay alive. “
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