Scared Mexicans Try Under-The-Skin Tracking Devices

Nick Miroff, Washington Post, August 21, 2011

Of all the strange circumstances surrounding the violent abduction last year of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, the Mexican power broker and former presidential candidate known here as “Boss Diego,” perhaps nothing was weirder than the mysterious tracking chip that the kidnappers allegedly cut from his body.

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According to a recent Mexican congressional report, kidnappings have jumped 317 percent in the past five years. More alarming, perhaps, is the finding that police officers or soldiers were involved in more than one-fifth of the crimes, contributing to widespread perceptions that authorities can’t be trusted to solve the crimes or recover missing loved ones.

Under-the-skin devices such as the one allegedly carved out of Boss Diego are selling here for thousands of dollars on the promise that they can help rescuers track down kidnapping victims. Xega, the Mexican company that sells the chips and performs the implants, says its sales have increased 40 percent in the past two years.

“Unfortunately, it’s been good for business but bad for the country,” said Xega executive Diego Kuri, referring to the kidnappings. “Thirty percent of our clients arrive after someone in their family has already experienced a kidnapping,” added Kuri, interviewed at the company’s heavily fortified offices, opposite a tire shop in this industrial city 120 miles north of Mexico’s capital.

Xega calls it the VIP package. For $2,000 upfront and annual fees of $2,000, the company provides clients with a subdermal radio-frequency identification chip (RFID), essentially a small antenna in a tiny glass tube. The chip, inserted into the fatty tissue of the arm between the shoulder and elbow, is less than half an inch long and about as wide as a strand of boiled spaghetti.

{snip} The company says it has helped rescue 178 clients in the past decade.

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That’s pure science fiction–a sham–say RIFD researchers and engineers in the United States. Any device that could communicate with satellites or even the local cellular network would need a battery and sizable antenna, like a cellphone, they say.

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The development of an RFID human implant that could work as a tracking device remains far off, said Justin Patton, managing director of the University of Arkansas RFID Research Center, which specializes in product and merchandise tracking for retail companies such as Wal-Mart.

“There’s no way in the world something that size can communicate with a satellite,” Patton said. “I have expensive systems with batteries on board, and even they can’t be read from a distance greater than a couple hundred meters, with no interference in the way.” Water is a major barrier for radio frequency, he added, and because the human body is mostly made up of water, it would dull the signal, as would metal, concrete and other solid materials.

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Several other Mexican companies also sell GPS-enabled tracking units with panic buttons, relying on more-proven forms of technology. The transmitters, smaller than a cellphone, can fit on a key chain, and they work by communicating with cellular networks.

“Demand is huge right now,” said Guillermo Medina, director of Max4Systems, which sells the devices for $200, with a $20 basic monthly fee. “Our sales are increasing 20 to 25 percent every month.”

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  • Flaxen-headed Strumpet

    I once knew a Mexican peasant type who recounted to me a story about a highly venomous snake bite. It seems that all the bite victim had to do was capture and bite the snake back and instant antidote was effected. If you read the local Spanish language papers her in Carolina del Sur, it is hard to tell who spends more money on ads–abogados or witchdoctors and palm readers. So selling some sort of electronic science fiction hoo-doo services (even to marginally “elite” Mexicans comes to me as no surprise as a contemporary money making opportunity.

  • Anonymous

    I hope the American elites who are so enthusiastic about the coming mexican takeover of the US read this.

    I went to a Catholic boarding school in the early 1980’s. My best friend was Patty Montoya, from mexico city. Her English was already just about perfect. They had an American governess who spoke English to the kids and she went to a bilingual English Spanish private school.

    Her parent’s did not send her to boarding school just to perfect her English and learn American culture. It was also becuse they wanted her to have a normal teen age life, like going shopping with friends and going to Baskin Robbins without an armed driver and body guard.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve read a few books about Cuba after we stupidly helped them “liberate” themselves from the functional Spanish and before the Castro takeover.

    There was excellent ferry service between Cuba and Florida, just 90 miles. The Ferry workers could always tell when a coup or revolution or trouble was coming in Cuba.

    The wives and children of the elites packed the ferries because the men wanted them safe and sound in Florida during the numerous revolutions.

    Our elites are probably buying houses in Canada for safe havens.

    My son knew a Haitian boy in high school. He was from an elite family. He was born in Miami. His family owned all sorts of apartment houses and businesses in the Haitian section of Miami.

    His parents and all 4 grandparents had also been born in Florida.

    The standard practice of this family was that in early pregnancy the women all moved to one of their properties in Florida and had the babies in America. They also had some private planes stationed in their country properties in Haiti to avoid the airport chaos when it’s necessary to get out quickly.

    Life in third world anarchies is not all that easy for the elites.