Twenty-six-year-old Octavio Martinez Quirós and 28-year-old Alfonso Hernandez Villavicencio, agents of the Assistant Attorney General's Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SEIDO), were on leave attending a family event when they went missing February 5.
They reappeared on Monday, filmed sitting before five masked men, wearing shirts labeled "SEIDO." The two men read a statement at gunpoint, saying that they were "in this situation because we don't respect innocent families."
They went on to allege that the Mexican government had allowed SEIDO and other federal agencies to torture, rape and kidnap women and children since Alfonso Navarrete Prida became the Mexican interior minister in January.
The video also implied that the two federales had worked undercover within the criminal underworld. "Understand, the fact that we dress up as normal workers doesn't mean they don't know who we are," the agents stated.
The Mexican government confirmed the men's identities. Police vowed to use all their resources to locate the two kidnapped agents.
While local police are frequently the targets of such kidnappings, federal agents have generally been exempt in the past for fear of retribution. But the captives' forced statement read that "[the captors] have always respected [federal police] as authorities, because they decided to do so, not because they couldn't harm us."
"This will continue to happen to all of our colleagues from other agencies who do the same thing: steal, kidnap and rape hiding behind a government badge."
The captors are thought (but not confirmed) to be members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a cartel that has been notable for its rapid expansion, bloody tactics and its nationalist, paramilitary trappings. In 2015, CJNG shot down a Mexican military helicopter with a rocket launcher, killing 10 soldiers.
Framing themselves as the enemies of the Los Zetas cartel and the corrupt politicians on their bankroll, the CJNG reportedly is allied with the infamous Sinaloa cartel — the chief rival of Los Zetas.
Mexican cartels frequently frame themselves as vigilantes, defenders of the common people and honest businessmen compared to their rivals and to the Mexican government, which they accuse of human rights abuses.
Their claims about an abusive Mexican state apparatus are supported by reports from watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch. In their 2018 report on Mexico, HRW accused Mexico City of allowing security forces such as SEIDO to engage in widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.