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Mother's search puts spotlight on Mexico crime maze

By Staff
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MEXICO CITY, Feb 23 (Reuters) When Maria Isabel Miranda's son was kidnapped last year she had so little faith in the Mexican police that she hunted down the abductors herself.

The middle-aged publicist, with no experience as a criminal investigator, spent months tracking suspects in the roughest corners of one of the world's biggest cities.

Often dressed in a wig to avoid detection, she gleaned information from street food vendors, taxi drivers and passersby that helped her find the former policeman who has been charged with kidnapping her son Hugo, 36.

But by that time, the kidnappers had already killed him.

Mexico's police, often accused of corruption and negligence, did little to help her, she said.

''I came up against total indifference,'' she complained. ''I had no choice but to do it myself because the police produced no results in seven months.'' Miranda unveiled a billboard poster on one of the capital's busiest streets on Wednesday offering a ,000 reward for the capture of another of her son's kidnappers.

Her ordeal highlights the huge faults in Mexico's justice system. An opinion poll last week showed crime is the top concern for voters at presidential elections in July.

Twice the number of people were more worried about crime than jobs, the University of Guadalajara survey showed.

Drug gangs kill rivals daily on the US border, and Mexico's kidnapping rate is among the highest in the world.

About 80 per cent of crimes go unreported, according to the ICESI think tank.

COMPLETE OVERHAUL The five presidential candidates pledge to reduce crime, but victims' groups are skeptical of the election year promises.

''All they are doing is saying what voters want to hear, not what they could do to really change the justice and security system in Mexico,'' said Maria Elena Morera, head of lobbying group Mexico United Against Crime.

MORE REUTERS SD RK1517

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