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In Mexico, kidnapping is no longer just a problem for the rich

(Page 2 of 2)

The first phone call came the night Mauricio was abducted. "Do you want to see your brother alive?" a stranger's voice asked Sergio, Mauricio's older brother. The kidnappers demanded 2 million pesos ($200,000) and gave detailed instructions for its delivery. Raimondo, who had been saving for 24 years, had $6,000 to his name. The family pleaded that it was impossible to collect money around Easter. They begged for proof that Mauricio was alive: "How much money had he come to repay his dad that day?" they asked - and were told. And what TV show was he watching at home the night before? Again, confirmation. They tore at their clothes in frustration.

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"Only Raimondo remained reserved. He could not express his sorrow," says Arcelia. "We all cried, but he - he just looked sick. He and Mauricio had fought so much. There was so much remorse there." By the time the negotiations went into the second week, the ransom was down to $20,000. Still far too much for the Encisos.

Raimondo sold the pickup truck for $8,000 and Arcelia's mother traveled down from Michuacan with her savings. Mauricio's 18-year-old wife, Yasmin, tied the bills with rubber bands and placed them in white envelopes. A time was set for the drop, and Sergio set off with the sack of money, his cellphone to his ear as the kidnappers barked out orders. He circled the shabby Pericentro shopping mall, drove toward the crowded Satellite district, and left the car under a bridge near the big church in Lomas Verdes.

That night the phone rang. Arcelia picked it up. "Mauricio?" she whispered. It was the kidnappers. They said there had not been enough money in the sack. Arcelia, pained, says she does not know if this is true. Only her husband and eldest son know, and they're not saying. The kidnappers used rough language. Sergio took away the receiver and asked for a sign of life from his brother. The voice told him to get lost.

Days, then weeks, then months passed - and nothing. The agents eventually packed up and left. Mauricio's sister got married in a fluffy white dress. And just last month, Mauricio's son, born five months before he was kidnapped, was finally baptized. Raimondo held the child during the ceremony.

Arcelia spends her days now making papier-mâché angels with long flowing capes. She has plans to sell them in the marketplace, but meanwhile, they perch on every space around the house. The light in Mauricio's room is left on permanently. Maybe, suggests Sergio, his eyes clouding up, he will one day follow it home.

Around the corner from the Enciso's home, past two stalls selling fresh chicken and a small stand selling candy and beans, Ricardo Berber Tinoco is standing in front of the local police station. The bulky neighborhood chief shakes his head when asked about the case.

He squints and furrows his forehead and plays with his big yellow Bugs Bunny key ring. He recalls something, but the details are hazy. Maybe another department was in charge, he suggests. Accordion music is piping out from the boom box and a half dozen policemen are washing the commander's car in the drizzle. They too shake their heads.

"There are certainly many cases like that these days," the commander says and jingles his key ring. "So many. Too many, actually."