Abduction of Mexico Soccer Star Spotlights Kidnapping in Tamaulipas

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The brief kidnapping of a soccer star in northeastern Mexico has brought public attention and state resources to a crime that is widely prevalent but hugely underreported in much of the country. 

Alan Pulido, who plays for Mexico’s national team and Greek champions Olympiacos, disappeared from his hometown of Ciudad Victoria in the state of Tamaulipas on May 28, only to be rescued from the grips of kidnappers a day later.

A group of armed men seized Pulido after he left a party with his girlfriend, reported Milenio. Pulido’s girlfriend, who the kidnappers left behind unharmed, reported the abduction to the authorities, prompting a rescue operation involving hundreds of federal and state forces and the use of airplanes and helicopters to search the area.

Officials gave few details on the operation leading to Pulido’s rescue, although Reforma reported arrests had been made. Federal Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo said there had been a ransom negotiation, but that no money was paid for Pulido’s release, reported Milenio.

Despite several bruises and a bandage on his right hand, Pulido appears not to have suffered serious injury, telling reporters: “[I am] very well, thank God.”

Pulido, 25, moved to Greece in 2015 after a successful spell with the Tigres of Monterrey. He was part of the Mexico squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but is not a member of the party set to dispute the Copa America later this month.

InSight Crime Analysis

The allure of kidnapping someone of Pulido’s status is understandable. As a soccer star playing internationally, he is likely significantly wealthier than the average Tamaulipas resident and could afford a large ransom. Indeed, as Excélsior documents, a number of Mexican athletes have been targeted for kidnapping over the years.

While it remains uncertain who abducted Pulido, Ciudad Victoria is an area where the Zetas criminal organization maintains a strong presence. Tamaulipas is also a region where the Zetas and Gulf Cartel frequently come into conflict as they struggle for control of territory and criminal activities in the state.

Kidnapping in particular has been a scourge for the state’s residents. In 2015, Tamaulipas was the state with by far the highest number of reported kidnappings with 327 — representing a quarter of the national total — according to the figures of Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública — SNSP) (pdf). However, this is likely a serious underestimate as kidnapping is often not reported by victims too scared for the life of their loved one to denounce the crime.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Kidnapping 

Kidnapping victims in Mexico rarely enjoy the international attention and massive rescue operations seen in this case. Nevertheless, Pulido’s abduction at least draws attention to the plight of many everyday Mexican citizens, and adds pressure on the state to tackle the problem of kidnapping. 

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