The actions of a taxi driver in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, have led to the arrest of a man alleged to be a part of Mexico’s most-wanted kidnapping gang as well as a suspected terrorist on Interpol’s wanted list.
While the arrest was made two weeks ago, more details have come to light in recent days and the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) didn’t make his capture known publicly until June 10.
Raúl Julio Escobar Poblete — allegedly a former guerilla fighter from Chile who is accused of assassinating a senator in that country in 1991 — had been living in Mexico under the false name Ramón Alberto Guerra. On May 30 he arranged for a taxi driver to deliver a package to a hotel in San Miguel.
But the driver’s suspicions were aroused when Escobar didn’t ask for change from the 500-peso bill he used to pay, an excessive fare for the trip.
While on his way to complete the delivery the driver noticed he was being followed by a white pickup truck. Overcome by fear because four taxi drivers had recently been killed in the city, he decided to call the state police.
They instructed him to park in a gas station where they would send a patrol to assist him and investigate.
When police arrived at the gas station they arrested the man in the truck, who turned out to be Escobar, believed to be part of a notorious gang of kidnappers that has made a number of high-profile abductions over the past 10 years.
Politician 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.
With Escobar in the custody of police, the taxi driver decided to open the package he had been charged to deliver and made a gruesome discovery.
Inside was the mutilated finger of a French-American woman who had been abducted in San Miguel some 11 weeks earlier as well as letters in both English and French addressed to her husband, providing instructions for the payment of a ransom.
Federal authorities estimate that there are at least seven other members of the gang, all of whom are believed to have regularly frequented the Ventanas Golf Club in San Miguel.
Over time authorities have identified patterns in the group’s modus operandi.
They very rarely use telephones as a means to negotiate with victim’s families. Instead they prefer to take out advertisements in newspapers or deliver messages by mail or taxi, as in the case that led to Escobar’s downfall.
Another distinctive trait of the group is that they almost invariably demand ransoms be paid in hundred-dollar bills.
Victims were held on average for a period of seven to eight months and often released just prior to Christmas.
Some victims have recounted that during their captivity they listened to music with revolutionary themes, something that fits in with Escobar’s background in the Marxist-Leninist Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front in Chile.
The group was considered a terrorist organization by several countries and its objective was to overthrow then Chilean president Augusto Pinochet.
Escobar was known as Comandante Emilio at the time.
However, the kidnappings carried out in Mexico’s Bajío region are not believed to be politically motivated.
According to Escobar’s lawyer, José Luis Vargas, his client doesn’t fear extradition and actually “prefers to go to Chile [because] he knows his identity has been discovered and he doesn’t want to lie any more.”
Vargas is confident that the kidnapping accusation will not proceed and that instead Escobar will be released from the Guanajuato prison where he is currently being held only to be detained by Interpol and extradited to his native Chile.
Escobar’s partner, Marcela Mardones, who is believed to have been part of the same Chilean guerilla group, fled the country upon hearing of his capture but was arrested earlier this month in Chile after having traveled through several countries in Central and South America.
Escobar and Mardones, who went by the name of Patricia, had been living in San Miguel de Allende for more than 10 years and had become involved in the social life of the city, socializing with business owners, restaurateurs, artists and other prominent community figures.
But Escobar was reported to be very tight-lipped about his background and business interests.
Several others, including other foreigners, are also under investigation now for suspected links to the former Chilean fugitive.