Drug-Cartel Murders in Mexico Double in 2008--American Security Expert Latest Kidnapping Victim

By Penny Starr | December 17, 2008 | 5:41 PM EST

Federal police secure the area after a shootout in Vicente Guerrero, Durango state, Mexico in this Associated Press photo from earlier this year. Mexican authorities say deaths from drug cartel violence have more than doubled in the first 11 months of 2008. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The death toll continues to rise south of the border, with Mexican authorities reporting that the number of people killed in drug-cartel related violence more than doubled in the first 11 months of this year – 2,413 people died between Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2007, and 5,376 homicides were reported during the same period in 2008.
“It’s about 114 to 115 percent (increase),” Ricardo Alday, spokesperson for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., told CNSNews.com.
Alday said it will be late January or early February before Mexican authorities will release more details about the victims, but he said most of those killed are believed to be individuals involved with drug cartels or law enforcement personnel.
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora released the figures on Dec. 8, two days before a Cuban-born American was abducted in the Mexican city of Saltillo in the state of Coahuila.
Felix Batista, who is still missing, is employed by ASI Global, a Houston-based company that provides “kidnap and ransom response” for clients around the globe.
David Schwam, a spokesperson for the company, said he could only provide CNSNews.com with a prepared statement:
“Felix Batista was abducted by persons unknown on Wednesday evening (Dec. 10) in Saltillo, Mexico while he was on private business. Our thoughts and prayers are with Felix and his family at this time. We will not take any questions and ask you now to please understand and respect our request for this matter to be treated in a sensitive manner without speculation or sensationalism.”
ASI Global’s President Charlie LeBlanc, however, was quoted in a Dec. 15 Reuters story.
“We have requested help from the FBI and the Mexican authorities,” LeBlanc said.
The FBI, however, would not speak to CNSNews.com about Batista.
“We have no comment,” Rick Colko, unit chief for the FBI press office, told CNSNews.com. “I would refer you to Mexican authorities.”
Alday did not respond to CNSNews.com’s request for comment on the case by press time.
As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, the U.S. Department of State’s Oct. 14, 2008 travel alert for Mexico reads: “In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped across Mexico and many cases remain unresolved.”
When asked about Batista’s alleged abduction, State Department spokesperson Nicole Thompson said privacy policy did not allow her to speak directly about the case.
“As far as being able to confirm reports that an American citizen has been kidnapped in Mexico, we are aware of a kidnapping, and we are taking all appropriate measures to assist,” Thompson told CNSNews.com.
“As far as what we can say about that American citizen is that we are providing appropriate consular assistance to the family of the kidnapped person. The Mexican authorities have launched an investigation,” she added.
“Mexican authorities are in the lead in that investigation, and we are taking all appropriate measures to assist the Mexican authorities,” said Thompson. “Due to privacy considerations, we are unable to provide any additional information.”
Mexican authorities said the increased violence in the country is the result of the drug cartels fighting over smuggling routes into the United States and Mexican law enforcement personnel trying to stop the cartels’ illegal activities.