MEXICO CITY — On a quiet November day nearly two years ago, Luis Ángel León Rodriguez called his mother, Araceli, to tell her he would be leaving town for a while. The 24-year-old federal police officer was being sent on a mission to Michoacán, one of Mexico's hottest states for organized crime. He would earn a bit more money in the danger zone, he explained. His mother implored him not to go; Luis Ángel brushed off her fears.
The last call Araceli received from her son came two days later, on Nov. 16, 2009, as Luis Ángel, five other officers, and a civilian mechanic were leaving Mexico City for the front lines. Luis Ángel told his mother he loved her and not to worry. "It was as if he knew we were going to be separated for a while," she told me. Araceli hasn't heard from her son -- or any of his companions -- since.
Recently, a research institute here announced that Mexico suffers from the second-highest kidnapping rate of any country in the world -- three times higher than Colombia's during its darkest period of drug violence and second only to Venezuela.