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Mexican Jews Demand an End to Wave of Kidnappings and Other Violent Crimes

July 1, 2004
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Jews are joining with other Mexicans in demanding that authorities put a stop to a recent rash of crime and kidnappings. “Almost everyone has either been assaulted or kidnapped or knows someone who has,” said Ari Konik, a Mexico City Jew who helped organize a march of hundreds of thousands of people Sunday down Mexico City’s main boulevard. “I think we’ll see the government take immediate action.”

Simultaneous demonstrations took place in other Mexican cities, including Tijuana, Morelia, Torreon, Guadalajara and Puebla.

“It doesn’t do any good to sit at home and watch TV and say, ‘What a shame,’ ” said Eliana Menasse, a Jew who took part in the march in the capital. “The politicians can’t close their eyes to this.”

The Central Jewish Committee of Mexico did not officially participate in the demonstration, the executive director of the group, Mauricio Lulka, said, but many Jews attended on their own.

“The Jewish comm! unity is a reflection of the general society,” Lulka told JTA. “We believe that there have been some advances in safety, but that it’s definitely not sufficient. The perception is still that crime is a serious problem.”

The past month has been a time of heightened public concern here about crime, especially kidnapping. It’s difficult to put the problem into numbers because many kidnappings go unreported for fear that police are involved.

A new study showed that Mexico ranks behind only Colombia in the number of annual kidnappings.

It’s also difficult to say how many Jews have been victims of kidnappings, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there have been plenty.

Like many people who marched on Sunday, Konik had a personal reason: His 29-year-old niece recently was kidnapped and murdered.

“She was a good girl, beautiful,” he said. “When you can’t trust the police, when the authorities don’t do anything, something has to change.”

The topic of violence! has dominated Mexican political discourse since the march. President Vicente Fox applauded the demonstration. Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a 2006 presidential hopeful, accused march organizers of trying to discredit his administration.

Mexico City’s police chief announced last week that the government is planning to establish a database of information on kidnappers and gangs.

Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha suggested Monday that Congress should examine the possibility of reinstating the death penalty. Though that seems unlikely, Macedo de la Concha’s public announcement is a sign that the march has impacted Mexico’s political scene.

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