NEWS

American Anti-Kidnapping Consultant Abducted

Felix Batista, an anti-kidnapping consultant  and a major source for our December cover story, was kidnapped in Northern Mexico last week after giving seminars on his specialty.

According to the Associated Press:

U.S. security consultant Felix Batista was in Saltillo in Coahuila state to offer advice on how to confront abductions for ransom when he was snatched by unknown assailants on Dec. 10, said Charlie LeBlanc, the president of the Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global LLC, where Batista is a consultant.

The FBI and Mexican law enforcement are investigating Batista's abduction. Officials say the abduction occurred after Batista answered his cell phone during lunch, which is when he left the restaurant and his abductors struck.

Batista worked for ASI Global, a Houston-based anti-kidnapping consultancy that offers its clients a 24-hour hot line that responds to kidnappings.

While The New York Times says the Mexican state of Coahuila isn't one of the most dangerous in a country where narcotraffickers increasingly do pitched battle against Mexican law enforcement, Batista's kidnapping shows that no place is safe as Mexico continues its slide into anarchy.

But the state, which abuts Texas, has not been immune either. Two of the state’s anti-kidnapping chiefs have been abducted in recent years, according to local news reports. State lawmakers, clearly frustrated with the rising level of impunity, recently sent a bill to Mexico’s Congress asking for a constitutional amendment allowing the death penalty for kidnappers who kill captives .... At a private security conference in Tijuana in February, Mr. Batista said kidnappings in northern Mexico were especially delicate because drug traffickers were frequently involved.

Batista, a former U.S. Army major, was described by his company as "known for conducting in-depth threat assessments, the successful resolution of nearly 100 kidnap and ransom cases (many on behalf of major insurance carriers) and investigations," according to the AP, who saw his profile page before it was removed from the Web site.

In Security Management''s December cover story on kidnapping rings, which increasingly target Mexico's middle class, Batista successfully negotiated the release of a Mexican entrepreneur for $300,000, $700,000 less than the original $1 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

Local Mexican media, however, may be unwittingly putting Batista's life at risk as it reports he is a former FBI agent, which ASI Global says is not true.

"We at ASI are very concerned for Felix's safety and would like to take this opportunity of stating categorically that Felix has never been an agent in the FBI," the company said in a statement.

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