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In Kidnapping Cases, Families Often End Up on Their Own

madres de victimas de secuestro

By Karla Ortiz

A parent is never prepared to deal with a child’s disappearance. Often the victim’s family is emotionally affected to the point where it cannot process a complaint on its own.

And although police and other related authorities have recommended protocols for what to do in missing persons cases, including protocols for tracking kidnapping victims, the unfortunate truth is that they often don’t follow them.

Services do exist for families seeking help in locating their missing loved ones, but in many cases, families are not told that these services exist or how to access them.

Such is the case of Rosario Lanten, who two years ago faced every parent’s worst nightmare, the kidnapping of her 27-year-old daughter, Rosario.

At first, Lanten did what anyone would have done: she went to the Attorney General’s office, where she filed a missing person’s complaint. However, she says, she was not treated respectfully. She also says she noticed several irregularities in the reporting process.

“I said that I needed to see the [surveillance] cameras to see how she had disappeared or who took her, and the response of the lady who waited on me was very sarcastic and silly: she said, ‘And for what?’

“When you go, nobody reads your rights to you. Nobody gives you real advice,” she said.

A second case

Monica Andrade, whose 16-year-old daughter Daniela went missing after going to the fair, experienced similar treatment. “When I went to the Attorney General’s office, the first thing they asked me was if my daughter was not with her boyfriend or if I had already tried to call her. Then they took all my data and just gave me a piece of paper. They didn’t even tell me a date to follow up. I returned after four days, and I realized that words had been added to my statement. A person asked me, ‘Didn’t your daughter drink?’ and I said no. I had never said that in my statement, and yet there it was written that I had said that.”

Fortunately, in both cases, the victims turned up, and currently they are back home. Monica Andrade’s daughter, Daniela, was in Comonfort, running away from home because she thought she was pregnant and did not want to return.

For Lanten, things were much more difficult, since her daughter had been kidnapped by a criminal group for the white slave trade. She went everywhere she could for help in finding her daughter, including associations for relatives in search of missing persons. Unfortunately, months passed without any sign of her daughter. Meanwhile, several extortion groups tried to take advantage of the situation and take money from the family, saying they had Rosario. But Lanten’s daughter’s return was not thanks to any authority but to the cunning and courage of Lanten’s daughter herself: she managed to escape one day before her kidnappers sent her out of the country, and without the help of a person who gave her food, that would not have been possible.

Finding the good out of the bad

After the experience, Rosario’s mother has been determined to make other families aware of their rights in such a situation. She has visited schools to give talks on these subjects. Rosario now wants to share her experiences and knowledge, which she obtained thanks to the support of different México City institutions and to a kidnapping prevention guide provided by the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (a document available online at

There are several youth aid services available from the Centro para los Adolescentes de San Miguel (the San Miguel Center for Adolescents), known as CASA, including psychological help, because surviving adolescence is more difficult for some than for others. One of these programs is Ranchero Pandillero, a CASA initiative that seeks to connect with at-risk youth through hip-hop culture, graffiti art, dance, rap, and DJ classes. Its main objective is to target children at a young age in order to help them toward a better future instead of toward violent acts, either to themselves or to others, by helping them discover new talents. Another program at CASA is Educación por la Libertad y la Equidad de Género Integrando Redes (Education for the Liberty and Equity of Gender Integrating Networks), known as ELEGIR. This is a program that specializes in the prevention of violence through mental health care. The program uses workshops and individual therapeutic intervention to address issues of mental health, emotional self-management, self-esteem, domestic violence, decision-making, human rights, and making life plans. To learn more about these programs, visit


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