Kidnapping Backlash in Mexican Border StatePosted: Updated:
Mexico's President just sent an additional 1500 troops to the violent border city Juarez. It's all part of "Operation Chihuahua" launched more than a year ago to curb drug violence. But the troop surge has done little to stop a wave of kidnappings and that crime has spread beyond the big cities to rural Chihuahua.
The state is home to fertile farmland, strong families and a thriving Mormon community founded by Americans in 1885.
Many are dual U.S.-Mexican citizens and have ties to both sides of the border
These families who survived the Mexican Revolution now cope with the modern day problem of kidnapping and organized crime. When armed men abducted a Mormon leader Rancher Meredith Romney last week it shook this community to its core. Romney was released a couple of days later but the kidnapping has many looking at options.
I've spoken with various residents of the region where Romney was kidnapped (Yes, he's is a distant relative of Mitt Romney, the former presidential candidate.) Some live in Mexico full time. Others go back and forth. All are concerned about their families safety in the once tranquil Chihuahua colony.
"There's never been this much tension and frustration I nthe many years of that community. There's a great deal of anxiety, " a man who we'll refer to as "T," told me. He does not want to be identified because he's worried about retaliation. "If you're left no other option then you have to defend your family. It's very important to protect what you have. The expectation is the government does that first. And if they can't then they leave you no option." He stopped short of saying what exactly that means.
Most private citizens in Mexico are not allowed to own guns. But it's common knowledge -- some people keep a gun to protect themselves -- especially in isolated, rural areas.
It's not clear if this view is widespread. But it is obvious there's a sense of urgency and frustration in the border state. Does it mean people are ready to take the law into their own hands? Not yet.
In May I reported on a peaceful protest staged at the Chihuahua state capital. Nearly every resident in the little, rural town of Le Baron, caravanned to the city for a demonstration. This happened after a 15 year old youth was kidnapped. His family said they could not afford the large ransom. His neighbors worried if they paid it would encourage more kidnappings.
The teen was released by his captors that weekend. But beforehand the residents camped out several days in downtown Chihuahua and demanded the government do more to crackdown on the kidnappers.
The protest leaders managed to get a meeting with state lawmakers, the governor and attorney general's office. All said efforts were in the works to get help from the federal government to break up kidnapping rings preying on Chihuahua families.
Many have given up on the Mexican government protecting them. Countless families have moved to U.S. border cities and beyond to escape kidnapping threats and extortionists. Others are reluctant to leave Mexico and the land they call home.
"There's a greater determination than there ever has been before to protect the land they have cultivated for generations. There's a greater determination to protect their family and to continue to continue to live as good citizens to help the areas prosper and to bring prosperity to the country of Mexico and to the great state of Chihuahua," said T.
It is a great state - but one where few feel at peace anymore. wave of kidnappings for ransom in Mexico's largest state.