Courts & Crime

Kidnapped in Mexico: Miami security consultant still missing after a year

MIAMI — When the telephone rings at her home in Coral Gables, Lourdes Batista rushes to answer in hopes of hearing some news from law enforcement authorities about her husband, Felix, who was kidnapped more than a year ago while on a business trip to Mexico.

But the case of Félix Batista remains as mysterious today as it was on Dec. 10, 2008, when the 54-year-old international security consultant -- who, ironically, was an anti-kidnapping expert -- was abducted outside a restaurant in Saltillo, in the northeastern state of Coahuila.

There has been no ransom request. No clues about his captors. Not one iota of information from investigators.

Through it all, Lourdes Batista, also 54, remains determined to keep the kidnapping case in the public eye.

"I will never give up looking for my husband,'' she said tearfully during an interview from her home.

Working with her sister-in-law, Lourdes has created a website, complete with a blog, in the event someone -- anyone -- can share information about her husband's whereabouts. She has offered a reward to anyone willing to talk, however limited the information might be.

Last month, she traveled to Washington, D.C., with her sister-in-law and two of her five children and met with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, who helped arrange face-to-face meetings with FBI officials and Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican ambassador to the United States. The ambassador promised her that Mexican authorities would not close the case.

"We did not get any new information, but I feel relieved because now I know the faces behind all this and our story is more personal,'' said Lourdes Batista, who said she had been especially frustrated with investigators in Mexico, a country that her husband had worked closely with as a security consultant.

She said she was grateful to the State Department and FBI, both agencies she practically now considers family, and to Ros-Lehtinen and Nelson, both of whom have pressed U.S. and Mexican authorities to solve the kidnapping case.

"An American citizen is in need and his family's hurting,'' Nelson said. ``We have to do whatever we can to help.''

On the day Félix Batista disappeared, he was in Saltillo to make a speech and presentation about ways to avoid kidnapping. The former Army major was an expert in the field, working as a consultant through ASI Global, a Houston-based security firm that specializes in kidnap situations for private and corporate clients.

Joining local businessman at a restaurant, La Principal, Félix Batista left the table after receiving a telephone call from someone authorities have not disclosed.

Before getting up to leave, he left all his belongings -- a laptop, a small bag and a card with his telephone number -- with one of his dinner companions and made an odd request: he asked that someone contact his wife if they were unable to reach him within the next 30 minutes.

That was the last time anyone saw Félix Batista.

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