A Conductor from Germany Kidnapped in Matamoros

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The Bremerhaven Theater's Sign Asking for Donations to Pay Roldofo's Kidnappers

Rodolfo Cazares, 36, had an up and coming career in Europe as an orchestra conductor. He served as orchestra director for the Vienna Conservatory from 2002 to 2007. Then in 2008 he moved to the German port city of Bremerhaven and became conductor of the city’s municipal symphony.

In July 2011, he went home to Matamoros, Mexico, just like in previous years, to visit his family. He traveled there with his wife Ludivine Cazares, 32, a French citizen, and her parents. In the early morning hours of July 9, eight armed men broke into his parent’s home. “They threatened us with Kalashnikovs. We were bound, we were blindfolded,” Ludivine Cazares told the German publication Bild. The family was forced into a car. Her mother was pushed into the trunk, she says. “We were barefoot and in our pajamas. It was like a bad dream. We were shocked. My mother had to lie down in the trunk. As she stretched out her arms, she felt corpses in plastic bags,” she told Bild.

The gunmen drove around Matamoros picking up 18 family members that night at various homes across the city, according to the The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the kidnapping in late February. “After taking valuables from the house, the men then bundled the eight family members into the family Suburban and drove off, even stopping to fill up for gasoline at a station where the attendants saw a car filled with tied-up passengers but were too scared to act.”

The gang, who were dressed in military fatigues and tennis shoes, then questioned Rodolfo’s father about his relatives, and within two hours had turned up at the house of Rodolfo’s uncle. “There they abducted four people, including a 10-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl. Within minutes, they arrived at yet another relative’s house, and seized six more family members, including two girls aged 13 and 17,” according to the Journal.

The family was held hostage in a safehouse with armed guards. The windows were covered. After two and a half days the family was released, with the exception of Rodolfo and three other male family members. “When the hijackers released me, I said goodbye to Rodolfo. I was sure that I would see him again,” Ludivine Cazares told Bild. But she never saw her husband again. Seven months have passed. The family finally decided to speak out last month in the media after paying ransoms on four separate occasions. Rodolfo still has not been released.

Rodolfo’s kidnapping case strikes me as very similar to the one I wrote about in my November 2011 story “No Safe Place.” In the story, Carlos, a businessman in Matamoros, was kidnapped and held for several weeks while his kidnappers drained his family of every possession they owned including his business, cars, jewelry and finally the title to his home. In Carlos’ case, the police were working in tandem with the kidnappers so there was nowhere for the family to turn for help.

The biggest difference with this case is the amount of time that Rodolfo’s kidnappers have held the conductor. The family has already paid four ransoms to Rodolfo’s captors and appealed to local, state and federal authorities in Mexico with no success. After keeping silent for several months, Rodolfo’s family is now going public with the kidnapping. The case has become well known in Germany where the arts community is helping the family raise more money to pay the kidnappers. After seven months Rodolfo’s friends and family still have hope that he is alive.

 

Read more about Rodolfo on a Facebook page created by his friends.

* Here is a You Tube clip of the Bremerhaven Theater’s version of the opera Tosca, which Rodolfo Cazares helped direct. In hindsight, the imagery of bound and blindfolded men in the opera is chilling.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.