The former president of Mexico’s Autonomous University of Guerrero, abducted on Nov. 25, says in a proof-of-life video uploaded to YouTube that he is in failing health and pleads with his family to take over negotiations to secure his release.
In the video, in which background music makes it difficult to hear Arturo Contreras Gomez, the kidnap victim identifies himself and says he is in weak health with headaches, kidney pain, numbness in his limbs, high blood pressure and needs “urgent” medical attention.
“I understand my case to be suspended. Otherwise, I don’t understand why, even though I’ve communicated my current health status in other letters, my family is not at the head of the negotiations,” Contreras Gomez says on the video, which could be seen Thursday on YouTube.
He is dressed in a blue shirt and has a long beard and a gaunt face.
The former rector calls on his friends and family to take over the investigation and “remove themselves” from the authorities’ probe into his whereabouts.
Contreras Gomez urges the media to bring attention to his case and, as proof that the video was filmed in recent days, says he knows that Angel Aguirre Rivero won Sunday’s gubernatorial elections in the southern state of Guerrero.
The rector of the Guerrero university from 2006 to 2010, Contreras Gomez was kidnapped while exercising in the state capital of Chilpancingo by a group of armed men.
At the time of the abduction, he was working on the campaign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, candidate in the Guerrero governor’s race, Manuel Añorve Baños, who lost to Aguirre Rivero by a wide margin.
Kidnapping has become a widespread problem in Mexico in recent years, with criminal gangs of different levels of sophistication targeting victims from various strata of society.
The Congressional Research Service – the public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress – said in a 2009 report that Mexican “drug-trafficking organizations and their violent enforcers have moved into other profitable criminal activities to supplement their (narcotics) income, including kidnapping, human trafficking, extortion and a network of other illegal businesses.”
The spiral of abductions, several involving the offspring of prominent businessmen, brought hundreds of thousands of citizens onto the streets in 2008 to demand that the authorities put a stop to the kidnapping gangs.
Last October, the Mexican Congress approved a bill that stiffens the penalties for kidnappers from 25 to 45 years behind bars when the victims are mutilated or if the criminals are retired or active-duty police officers, and from 40 to 70 years in prison if the victims are killed.
Guerrero has been the scene in recent years of a war between rival drug cartels that left 370 people dead last year alone in Acapulco, a popular destination for domestic tourists.
The state, which suffers from a high level of poverty, has also been affected by other types of conflicts, and guerrilla groups have sprouted up there.