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Nine missing pollsters freed in western Mexico

August 3, 2011 | 10:45 am

All nine polling workers who had vanished while taking surveys in a violent slice of western Mexico have been freed, their employers and Mexican authorities said Wednesday morning.

Roy Campos, director of the Consulta Mitofsky polling firm, said via Twitter early this morning that six employees, missing since Saturday afternoon in the drug-plagued state of Michoacan, were "free." He did not immediately say where the workers had been held or by whom.

Several hours later, Francisco Abundis, director of a separate firm, Parametria, said in a radio interview that three of his workers who vanished Monday also were "safe and sound" after being freed by unidentified captors. All nine pollsters were working near the farming city of Apatzingan, the site of past shootouts between drug-gang gunmen and Mexican forces.

Mitofsky posted a statement [link in Spanish] thanking authorities and supporters and saying that the freed pollsters were "not part of any conflict."

In a radio interview, Michoacan's state prosecutor, Jesus Montejano, confirmed the release of the Mitofsky workers [interview in Spanish] and said the company reported that they are in "a good state of health." Montejano offered no details on who had held the pollsters, saying there had been no arrests. He said no ransom was paid. Montejano described the disappearances as "atypical."

But the disappearances were a reminder of the dangerous conditions that prevail across drug-trafficking zones in Mexico, especially in the countryside, where gunmen are effectively in charge of some areas.

Michoacan, home to the notorious La Familia and an offshoot known as the Knights Templar, holds elections in November. Both sets of pollsters were working on behalf of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party to gauge the popularity of potential candidates.

--by Ken Ellingwood in Mexico City

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