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Were kidnapped Mexican pollsters mistaken for undercover agents?

August 5, 2011 |  1:53 pm

Nine polling workers who were freed by unidentified captors this week after disappearing on the job in  western Mexican may have been mistaken for undercover police agents, a top-ranking state official  said today.

Rafael Melgoza Radillo, government secretary for the state of Michoacan, said all signs pointed to “some confusion” on the part of criminals who seized the pollsters, who work for separate polling firms.

Melgoza said similar confusion may also explain the disappearance of five other people in the same area Monday while distributing Yellow Pages directories. The five distributors have not been found, though their car turned up today about 15 miles from the city of Apatzingan, where they and the pollsters had been working.

Melgoza told reporters in Michoacan that authorities assume the captors mistakenly thought the workers were undercover agents trying to glean information on criminal activities in the area, a hotbed of drug-trafficking and the site of clashes between hit men and Mexican security forces.

When the captors realized that the pollsters were not agents, Melgoza said, “they finally let them go.”
The two groups of pollsters — six employed by the Consulta Mitofsky firm and three with Parametria — were freed Wednesday within hours of one another. The Mitofsky workers vanished Saturday and the Parametria pollsters went missing Monday.

None has spoken publicly about what happened to them.

-- Ken Ellingwood in Mexico City

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