Spanish authorities have arrested a 40-year-old woman suspected of being part of a notorious kidnapping and extortion racket that operated out of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.
Isabel Mazarro Gómez de Santiago, who is originally from Madrid but lived in Mexico for several years, was detained by the Civil Guard in the northern province of Asturias.
Mazarro fled Mexico in early June after her partner, Raúl Julio Escobar Poblete, was arrested on May 30 in San Miguel de Allende. He was detained as he followed a taxi driver to make sure a package containing a kidnapping victim’s severed finger, along with ransom demands, arrived at its intended destination.
A Chilean national who is also accused of murdering a Chilean senator while a member of a leftist group that opposed the rule of General Augusto Pinochet, Escobar was allegedly the ringleader of the Mexican gang that carried out a series of high-profile kidnappings over nearly a decade.
Former senator and 1994 presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos and Mónica Jurado, the former daughter-in-law of ex-president Vicente Fox, were among the group’s victims.
The gang allegedly kept some victims captive in coffins and employed other unusual techniques such as playing loud music with revolutionary themes, serving hostages bacalao a la vizcaina (a codfish dish) at Christmas and providing them with the book Man’s Search for Meaning by concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl. Victims were held on average for a period of seven to eight months.
Prior to Escobar’s arrest, he and Mazarro lived what seemed to outsiders like a normal life in the central Mexican city that is particularly popular with expatriates.
In social circles, she explained that their large two-story home and lavish lifestyle were the result of Escobar’s supposedly successful real estate dealings. Much of her free time was spent practicing yoga.
But Escobar’s arrest brought that life to an abrupt halt and just days later Mazarro disappeared.
According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Escobar made two telephone calls from the police station where he was initially detained. One of them was to Mazarro to whom he gave a concise, yet enigmatic instruction.
“Remove the package from the drawer,” he allegedly told her.
A 70-year-old American woman, Nancy Michelle Kendall — who had been held captive for 79 days and had a finger amputated — was freed a short time later. A US $1-million ransom had been demanded for her release.
The exact correlation between Escobar’s instruction and the subsequent rapid release of Kendall is unclear.
Three days later, Mazarro took a flight to Madrid, returning to her homeland six years after she had left with her son, sister and other family members.
Mexican authorities had not yet issued an international warrant, enabling her to pass through immigration unhindered while using her Spanish travel documents.
But in the following months, El País reported, she went to considerable lengths to ensure that she left no trace of her whereabouts by avoiding the use of her real name in any transactions she made.
It wasn’t until September 25 that a request from the Mexican Attorney General’s office (PGR) finally arrived in Madrid, seeking Mazarro’s arrest because of the suspicion that she had returned to her homeland.
Almost a month later, after unsuccessful investigations that focused on Madrid, Málaga and Alicante, a division of the Spanish Guard’s central operations unit finally tracked her down in a small village near Gijón, Asturias, where she had rented a house under her sister’s name.
Consequently, authorities swooped in last Monday evening, detaining Mazarro as she was walked her two dogs in the company of her son. Asked to identify herself, she used her own name and was reportedly unaware yet unsurprised that Mexican authorities had sought her arrest.
The next day, a National Court judge processing Mexico’s extradition request ordered her release on condition that she surrender her passport and report to the court on a weekly basis.
If found guilty in Mexico, Mazarro could face up to 90 years’ imprisonment.
A former partner of Escobar, Marcela Mardones, also fled Mexico after his arrest but was detained in Chile. She was not only allegedly involved in the kidnapping gang but also an accomplice in the 1991 murder of Chilean senator Jaime Guzmán.
Escobar’s lawyer said in July that his client is not worried about his possible extradition to Chile but the kidnapping charges he faces in Mexico. Escobar’s only concern is proving his innocence and clearing his name in San Miguel de Allende, said José Luis Vargas Ramírez.
Source: El País (sp)