One of the hotels where nurses were used in extortion attempts. One of the hotels where nurses were used in extortion attempts.

Covid-19 medical workers ‘virtual kidnapping’ victims in Mexico City hotels

Calls demanding money were made to family members

A group of nurses who had traveled to Mexico City from elsewhere in the country to join the fight against the coronavirus outbreak were victims of a “virtual kidnapping” in the hotels provided for their accommodation on Tuesday, but the extortion attempt failed.

Claiming to have access to the hotels’ security cameras, the would-be kidnappers threatened the 14 nurses from the Mexican Social Security Institute via telephone and video calls that they would kidnap them if they left the establishments.

Authorities became aware of the situation after the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office (FGJ) received a report of an extortion attempt in a hotel in the Tacubaya neighborhood. They found over a dozen similar complaints upon arrival.

“According to initial investigations, relatives of the accusers were extorted over the phone by people who told them that they had their loved ones detained and that they would do them harm if they didn’t deposit a certain amount of money,” the FGJ said in a press release.

The victims were taken to FGJ facilities to leave their statements and were reported to be safe on Wednesday morning.

The FGJ did not release the names of the hotels involved, but photos of the incident reveal that one of them is Ambos Mundos. The newspaper Animal Político verified that Ambos Mundos is on the official list of over 200 hotels in the city fitted out to accommodate medical professionals who travel to the capital to join the fight against Covid-19.

The program offers visiting doctors and nurses free accommodations once they provide proof that they are working with coronavirus patients in a local hospital.

Hotel kidnappings are not uncommon in Mexico City, where kidnappers sometimes work in conjunction with hotel staff to extort out-of-town visitors by holding them hostage in the very establishment in which they paid to stay. The Mexico City Hotel and Motel Association is expected to release a statement about the incident later today.

The attempts to kidnap the nurses come at the most critical time in the coronavirus outbreak. Data from the federal Health Ministry revealed that 2,713 new cases were reported nationwide in the 24-hour period during which the attempted kidnappings took place, the highest one-day spike in new cases so far.

Sources: Animal Político (sp), Milenio (sp)

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