A Chilean-Spanish couple head kidnappers ring

Honorata Zapaśnik

39-year-old Isabel Gomez Mazarro de Santiago was arrested by Spanish police in Gijon , where she was hiding from justice. She and her husband Raul Julio Escobar Poblete, of Chilean origin, were accused of kidnapping people in Mexico. It appeared during the investigation that the man is also one of the most wanted criminals in Chile.

He played football and liked to visit a pub or two from time to time.

The couple enjoyed a good reputation among their neighbours in San Miguel de Allende , Mexico. Escobar Poblete made himself known as a real estate agent. Isabel claimed she was an owner of an art gallery. She also ran a beauty salon and a gift shop.

They lived in an expensive district full of foreigners, in a two-storey apartment with a large garden. Raul was a PTA chairman at school where his daughter was studying. He played football and liked to visit a pub or two from time to time. The locals thought his name was Ramon Guerra and that he came from Pueblo, a city inhabited by two million people in central Mexico.

In fact, the married couple headed the gang, which kidnapped the rich demanding the ransom. The victims were held in wooden boxes for months and were forced to listen to loud music for many days.

The couple’s life changed on May 30, when Escobar Poblete was arrested by police in Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato . He went there to make sure that the family of one of the kidnapped women received her cut off finger. He demanded six million dollars in exchange for letting her free. Straight after being taken to the police station he made two phone calls. One of them – to his wife. He sent her a mysterious message: ‘Release the package from the box’. Soon after that Nancy Michell Kendall, a retired US resident, who was kidnapped two and a half months earlier, was released.

Three days after her husband’s arrest, Isabel Mazarro boarded a plane and returned to Spain. Six years earlier she had left her homeland seeking a better life, along with her son and her sister, and had gone to Mexico. Now, she hid herself in a house rented in the name of her sister.

El Comandante Emilio

The police soon recognized the true identity of Julio Escobar Poblete. It turned out that he was chased by Interpol. He was called ‘el Comandante Emilio’ in his homeland. Moreover, he was accused of killing the leader of the Independent Democratic Union, Jaime Guzman, on April 1, 1991. Before starting his political career, Guzman was a lawyer and he collaborated with General Augusto Pinochet during the military regime. He also participated in the process of forming the Constitution in 1980. In Chile his tragic death is considered as the greatest crime in the period of political transformation and the implementation of democratic procedures.

It is possible that ‘el Comandante Emilio’ is also responsible for other murders committed by Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR). It was a Chilean terrorist organization created by the socialists in 1983 to combat the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet . It organized strikes, sabotage actions and assassinations. In 1991 it was transformed into a political movement. However, its members still developed guerrilla activity for the next eight years

The last time the Chileans heard of ‘el Comandante Emilio’ was in 2002. It was proved that he had participated in the kidnapping of the Brazilian journalist, Washington Olivetto in 2001. Emilio’s partners in crime were caught and sentenced to prison, but he managed to leave Chile and disappeared immediately.

An unlikely extradition

Marcela Mardones was Emilio’s partner. They  escaped from Chile to Mexico. However, when he was arrested, she returned to Chile and was caught by the police. She admitted during the investigation that Raul had been involved in the preparations to murder Jaime Guzman.

Now Chile demands the extradition of Escobar Poblete, but it is unclear whether the Mexican authorities will agree, as he is accused of carrying out five kidnappings in that country. Politician Fernandez de Cevallos, businessman Eduardo Garcia Valseca and Monica Jurado, daughter in law of Vincente Fox, former president of Mexico, were among the kidnapped. It is supposed that there were more crimes, but not all of them were reported to the police.

In 2016, the number of kidnappings in Mexico increased by 2% in comparison to the previous year. According to statistics, six people were kidnapped in Mexico every day. Cities of Mexico, Tamaulipas and Guerrero had the highest rate of crime.

Distpach is traditional reporting form - we enhance using new technologies and journalism trends. Each article besides it's text contains additional contextual information. Special anotations are created by reporters which will allow you to better understand issues we cover.

Learn more by clicking on the yellow highlights.