Fernandez was freed seven months later with little explanation, but the gruesome details of his crude surgery have not dissuaded thousands of worried Mexicans from seeking out similar satellite and radio-frequency tracking products — including scientifically dubious chip implants — as abductions in the country soar.
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.
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.
The chip relays a signal to an external Global Positioning System unit the size of a cellphone, Kuri said, but if the owner is stripped of the GPS device in the event of an abduction, Xega can still track down its clients by sending radio signals to the implant. The company says it has helped rescue 178 clients in the past decade.
But researchers say the GPS devices also have limitations. Unlike a GPS-enabled cellphone, which sends a signal only when the user requests location coordinates, a GPS rescue device would have to emit a distress signal at regular intervals — every few minutes or so. That would quickly drain the battery. And if the device is in an area with no reception — whether a cabin in the woods or the basement of a safe house — its signal can’t be detected.