Human rights honoree calls for anti-kidnap units

Mexico's National Human Rights Award 2010 recipient, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, left, speaks to Mexico's President Felipe Calderón during the award ceremony in Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

By KAREN HOFFMANN

Mexico Weekly / Dec. 21, 2010
Former PAN senator and presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos was returned to his family Monday, after being held by unknown kidnappers for seven months.

Querétaro state authorities stayed out of the investigation at the request of Fernández de Cevallos’ family, who had their own negotiator and reportedly paid a ransom of $20 million.

Police also took a “hands-off” role in investigating the kidnapping of Hugo Alberto Wallace Miranda, who was abducted in 2005. But, says his mother, hers was a very different experience.

Isabela Miranda de Wallace, who helped bring Hugo’s kidnappers and killers to justice on her own, told Mexico Weekly that even if she had wanted government help, “in my case, the government didn’t do
anything.”

“And there are many more cases like mine,” she said.

The human rights honoree and anti-kidnapping activist had a novel
strategy, putting up billboards with the images of the alleged
kidnappers of her son. Through the billboards and her own
investigation, she has been able to send no fewer than 11 members of
the kidnapping band to jail.

On Nov. 23, Miranda was awarded the 2010 National Human Rights Prize.

Called a “tireless social fighter” by the National Human Rights

Commission, Miranda de Wallace now heads the organization Alto al
Secuestro (Stop Kidnapping), which advises families of how to act when
confronted with the nightmarish scenario of a loved one’s abduction.

She advised looking for a government investigator so that they know

what their options are within the law. “No private investigators –

they are often charlatans,” she said. “Don’t do it.”

Another problem, she said, is when people pay the ransom without
bringing in a professional negotiator. “Without this, you can make
mistakes,” said Miranda de Wallace. “You need to have proof of life,
for example.”

She explained Mexico’s ongoing wave of kidnappings — 8,000 in the
first ten months of this year, according to Multisistemas de Seguridad
Industrial — by saying the country lacks strong institutions like
trustworthy police forces. In fact, she added, police sometimes are
involved in the kidnappings. “In Mexico [the authorities] don’t know

how to investigate,” said Miranda de Wallace. “We live what we live.
‘No pasa nada.’”

“The deeper root is the social problem we are living in this country,”

she said. “People have no opportunities, no employment, no school.”

In order for the government to improve, she advised, “Each state has

to have well established anti-kidnapping units, as is mandated by the
law.”

If this happens, she said, “little by little,” the kidnappings will cease.

Miranda de Wallace collaborated on the bill “Preventing and Punishing
Kidnapping Crimes” that was signed into law in November. The bill
created a fund for victims and mandated prison sentences of up to 70
years for kidnappers who kill their victims.

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