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Mexico Politician Feared Kidnapped

December 18, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Widespread speculation that Mexico’s former interior minister _ the nation’s top security official _ had been kidnapped intensified Thursday when he failed to show up for work.

Fernando Gutierrez Barrios’ staff had said he was on vacation with his family, and that he was expected back at work Thursday morning. But by afternoon, Gutierrez Barrios had not turned up.

His personal secretary, Jose Luis Garcia Mercado, told The Associated Press that Gutierrez Barrios had extended his vacation and was expected back next week.

``I assure you he hasn’t been kidnapped,″ he said. He refused to say where Gutierrez Barrios was or when he had spoken with his boss.

Gutierrez Barrios was for years the head of Mexico’s security apparatus, and has been federal interior secretary and governor of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

If he has indeed been kidnapped, it would be one of the most shocking abductions in Mexican history.

Often contradictory speculation that Gutierrez Barrios had been kidnapped has raged for days on the front pages of several major newspapers, which reported he was abducted either Dec. 9 or 10, either in Veracruz or Mexico City.

The newspaper La Jornada listed rumors from police and prosecution sources Thursday: that Gutierrez Barrios had been rescued, or his $1.2 million ransom paid by a major bank, or that he was still being held.

``The most sane thing Don Fernando could do would be to show up in public to put an end to these rumors,″ Mexico’s attorney general, Jorge Madrazo Cuellar, told reporters Wednesday, using the Spanish honorific.

Many Mexicans were skeptical of the vacation claims, since relatives of other wealthy kidnapping victims have given similar stories.

Relatives often ask police to stay out of kidnap cases, fearing that inept police actions or even police complicity with kidnappers will endanger the victims’ lives.

Mexican newspapers last month reported that the chief and deputy chief of the city police anti-kidnapping unit were themselves kidnapped. The two later turned up and denied the report.

Few solid statistics are available on kidnapping because so many go unreported to police.

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