In Mexico there are five kidnappings a day. Despite this, Alberto de la Fuente never imagined that he could be a victim of one of them. Neither his comfortable position, nor the fact that he lives in Puebla, one of the states in Mexico where this type of crime occurs the most, led him to seek extraordinary security measures. Thus, on November 29, 2016, a group of six armed men, dressed in military uniform, and who were traveling in various vehicles, one of which was an alleged Police van, blocked his way in broad daylight, in a busy street and a few meters from his son’s school, whom he has just left. From that day on, the businessman became just a “merchandise”, but a “very valuable” merchandise, starring in one of the longest kidnappings in memory in Mexico. “It was the perfect cover because nobody noticed what was happening,” says the businessman during an interview with ABC. “Even for the first few minutes I thought it was a legal arrest, but they had the wrong person.”
The businessman was transferred to a cabin built inside another space, without natural light, painted gray and containing, among other things, a mat, a pillow, white sheets, a black stool, a toothbrush, toilet paper, a camping fridge where you can relieve yourself and two surveillance cameras. «I barely fit in the box, and for the first time I was grateful that I was not tall or stout. The space did not exceed the dimensions of a bed of 150 x 200 centimeters,” says De la Fuente in the book, ‘La caja’, published in Spain by Medialuna, in which he has “vomited” how the 290 days of his kidnapping were. .
For almost 300 days he lived surrounded by the thunderous noise of the narcocorridos, with some oasis of classical music, but immersed in absolute silence with his guards, with whom he did not exchange a single word, only 10 communications written throughout his captivity about the rules that he had to follow, to stay alive, and the economic negotiation that the criminal group established with his father – the first contact with the family took 36 days to arrive.
Although at first De la Fuente thought that his situation would be resolved in a few days, it spread. When they informed him of the exorbitant amount demanded for his release, he felt as if he had been pronounced terminally ill. “It was terrible, he was prepared for a couple of days, I never thought it would last months.”
The Mexican businessman admits that during his captivity what he feared the most was “that they would mutilate me, more than kill me.” And he explains why: «Unfortunately there was a rather famous kidnapper in Mexico, whom he was nicknamed the Mochaears, which made it fashionable to send mutilated fingers and especially ears to families to pressure prompt payment. And although in one of the statements the kidnappers told me that they did not torture the victims, except when necessary, it was always in my head that they could mutilate a limb, especially when months went by and nothing happened. My logic told me that they could go in and cut off a member to speed up the process ».
a bad sign
His greatest fear did not materialize, but the businessman did suffer pressure to complete the negotiation, such as taking away his mattress, leaving him naked for days, and reducing the three small but nutritious meals he had been given up to then – “they gave me vegetables and fruit »–, to a single one of beans with stones included. “In the seventh month, they came in and took my uniform and practically all the objects in the box. That was a very bad sign for me », he recalls. That moved him to ask his captors what he could expect, and the answer was cold and terrifying. After confirming that the negotiation had stalled, they told him “that they were evaluating whether they were going to kill me now, and set a precedent for future kidnappings.”
After confirming that the negotiation had stalled, the kidnappers told him “that they were evaluating whether they were going to kill me now, and set a precedent for future kidnappings.”
After months of negotiation, in early September 2017 the criminal group notified De la Fuente that an agreement had been reached and that he was going to be released. The kidnappers, whom he did not see – nor did he want to see in order to survive – placed him on the 14th under a tent in a place with little traffic. In a pocket of his clothes they left him 100 pesos (about 20 euros) to take a taxi and get to a safe place. They did so by giving him a warning –or perhaps a piece of advice–: “Don’t stop the police, lest they think of continuing with the kidnapping.”
Regarding the investigation of his kidnapping by the police, he regrets that “a large part of the crimes in Mexico are not reported because it is well known that the administration of justice is not my country’s forte. And unfortunately, by not reporting the crime, it tends to repeat itself. He did, but without much success. “I couldn’t give many details because I never saw them (the kidnappers), I didn’t know where they were. I could only speak of the ‘modus operandi’”. He remembers that for a while he was pressing and asking the prosecution, “and there was never an answer, until I assumed that there was going to be no justice for me. I resigned myself and learned to live with it.
“Don’t stop the police, lest it occur to them to continue with the kidnapping,” they advised him after releasing him.
About those responsible, never arrested, he affirms that “it was a very professional criminal group, they were not drug traffickers”, despite the narcocorridos that they forced him to listen to and the Chapo movies they gave him to watch on DVD. “They did it to make me think that,” he says.
face your fears
De la Fuente concluded the book five years after his release. A time in which she has tried “step by step” to return to who she was before the event. “It has not been a quick process, however, I was always very clear that I wanted to face all those situations that could cause me fear, such as going through the street where I was kidnapped again.” She has even listened to the narcorridos “with which they tortured me” again, and has passed the test. «I can go to any event without causing stress. Paranoia left her in the box ».
«I can go to any event and listen to narcocorridos without causing stress. I left paranoia in the box”
The author concedes that writing this book has served as a catharsis for him, and at the same time as a testimony so that his children, when they can understand him, will know why he was not by their side for almost 300 days.
Currently published only in Spain, the text also pretends to be a manual. “‘The Box’ is a book of resilience and how someone can survive in such extreme adversity.” Regarding the keys that helped him cope with the kidnapping, he points out three: “Religion or faith, physical exercise and not hating the kidnappers, channeling all your energy to the reasons why you want to survive.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism