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Monster prison break. Death cult leader arrested. Highest job creation in 14 years. Mexico's "little pea" stuns Manchester.
With a white beard down to his chest, the former presidential candidate and one of Mexico’s most prominent politicians was freed after seven months of being one of the country’s most notorious kidnap victims. Diego Fernandez de Cevallos appeared before the media on Dec. 21, praising God and the Virgin of Guadalupe for his liberty – although newspapers reported he had actually gotten out of the blindfold and safe house nine days earlier.
It was not a cause for celebration. The family reportedly paid more than $20 million for his release – amid a year that has been devastating for kidnapping in Mexico. However, Fernandez said the perpetrators also had political motives, being extreme leftists who saw the rich conservative as an enemy of their cause. A communiqué was later released linking the kidnapping to the Zapatista rebels although some officials said this was not authentic. But it was not all bad for the politician, known as Jefe Diego. A producer approached him wanting to make a movie about his ordeal. Other pundits fancy his chances as running for president in the 2012 elections.
Another high-profile group of prisoners gained their liberty in December. But these were not kidnap victims but convicts who broke out of jail on a mammoth scale. While Mexico has suffered from some major prison escapes it had never seen anything as bad as this: a stunning 151 convicts poured out of the jail in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas. And not a shot was fired. Authorities then arrested a whopping 41 prison guards for opening the gates to let the convicts march out. Mugshots of the prisoners were also released on one huge wanted poster.
Still, as some prisoners got out there were plenty more being arrested. On Jan. 4, police arrested an alleged kidnapping ring that included none other than David Romo – the infamous leader of Mexico’s Santa Muerte death cult. Romo, the self proclaimed archbishop of the cult, ran Santa Muerte services out of a church in the rough Mexico City barrio of Tepito. While venerating Jesus, followers also worship the Santa Muerte – a kind of female grim reaper-type figure. Church officials have long accused them of being Satanists connected to criminals and drug gangs. Romo is accused of being involved in the kidnapping of two elderly people and depositing the money in his bank account.
Another alleged criminal cleric was reportedly killed in December. Nazario Moreno, also known as El Mas Loco or the Maddest One, is alleged to have been shot dead by federal police as he planned a party. Moreno was leader of La Familia Michoacana gang that claims to be evangelical Christians as well as traffickers and extortionists. However, El Mas Loco’s mysticism in life followed to his death with police unable to find the body. In response to the killing, Familia members burned cars across the state and held rallies promising to stay armed and ready. However, in January La Familia released a statement promising a month ceasefire – an action that the government said showed signs the gang was on its last legs.
Mexico in 2010 created the largest number of jobs in 14 years according to data released by the government on Jan. 4. Labor Secretary Javier Lozano said that 730,348 additional posts were added in 2010 according to payroll stats. However, unemployment only went down slightly to 5 percent, from a peak of 6.4 percent in September 2009, with some 800,000 young people entering the workforce every year. Mexico suffered its worst recession since the 1930s and major job losses in 2009.
Adding to job creation in Mexico is Atlanta-based cable company Alcan Cable. The division of Rio Tinto PLC announced on Jan. 3 that it has set up a new legal entity for its operations south of the border called Alcan Cable de Mexico. The company based in Monterrey will help make business in the Mexican peso easier and respond to local company needs, it said. The move comes while it has cut jobs in the United States, axing 77 posts in Roseburg, Ore.
One bright spark has lightened Mexican hearts in the New Year – and it is all the way over the Atlantic in Manchester, England. Young Mexican soccer star Javier Hernandez, known as Chicharrito or the little pea, is halfway through his first season playing for Manchester United and he can’t stop scoring goals. Not only did he bang in the winning goal on Jan. 1 on Man. U’s first game of the year he went on and banged in a stunning goal three days later to give the English team a three-point lead at the top of the league. He has even got his own song played by a Manchester band in a Latin style and called “Chico is the Man.” It is even available on iTunes.