Mexico: five arrested after dozens of call centre workers are abducted

Police storm house to free victims of suspected revenge kidnapping by business rivals

Police investigators and onlookers outside the call centre in Cancun following the abductions
(Image credit: ELIZABETH RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Police in Mexico have arrested five people suspected of kidnapping 30 call-centre workers in an attack that is believed to have been triggered by a business feud.

Three of the abducted staff were released by their captors shortly after being abducted from their workplace, in Cancun, “but the remaining 27, including one of the [business] owners, were missing for hours”, The Washington Post reports.

They were finally freed after police raided the house where they were being held, on the outskirts of the city, in Quintana Roo state on the Yucatan Peninsula.

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What happened?

Witnesses say that about eight armed people stormed the call centre, which sells holiday packages, on Tuesday evening.

The hostages were bundled into two vans and driven to a house in the Cancun suburbs, according to the authorities.

“When police entered the house, they found five heavily armed men standing guard over 27 of the call centre employees, who were blindfolded,” reports Reuters.

Three of the suspected kidnappers were immediately detained, with the other two caught after a short chase.

Following the raid, Prosecutor Oscar Montes de Oca said: “Our investigation has led us to the preliminary conclusion that this was a dispute between owners of the business, and in fact one of the owners was among the 27 captives.”

The kidnappings are believed to be an act of revenge over a withheld payment and employee mistreatment at the call centre.

“Montes de Oca also said he would investigate whether the suspects were drug cartel members,” adds Reuters.

Is this an isolated incident?

“Cancun had long been spared the drug violence that affected many other parts of Mexico, until a few years ago. Since then, the city’s murder rate has spiked, and the notorious Jalisco cartel was said to be moving into the resort,” reports The Washington Post.

In January, federal authorities revealed that “774 people had been killed in the state last year, more than double the 359 killings recorded in 2017”, says The Guardian.

Across Mexico, 8,493 people were murdered in the first three months of 2019, a 9.6% year-on-year rise, according to BBC.

“The figures contradict statements by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had said the murder rate had not risen since he took office,” the broadcaster notes.

Lopez Obrador, who was sworn in on 1 December, wants to disband the country’s army and make national security the priority of the new National Guard police force, which was inaugurated on Sunday.

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