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Although the idea of being constantly tracked by an implanted chip may seem like an Orwellian nightmare, people in Mexico are signing up. Their motivation? Peace of mind.
Between 2004 and 2007, kidnappings in Mexico have increased by almost 40 percent. Official statistics, according to an Aug. 21 Reuters article, show there were 751 kidnappings last year. This number is extremely misleading as it is widely believed most kidnappings go unreported. The actual number could be as high as 7,000 for 2007, according to the ICESI, Mexico's Citizens' Institute for the Study of Crime. Sometimes these kidnappings are short affairs with the victim being forced to withdraw money from a bank machine and then released. In other circumstances they are held until their family antes up.
With no end in sight to the kidnapping threats, the rich - and even the middle class - are having tiny transmitters implanted under their skin so that they can be tracked. The transmitters are about the size and shape of a grain of rice. They are usually implanted between the skin and muscle of the recipient's arm, so that they cannot be seen.
Reuters quotes Cristina, a 28-year-old who signed up for the service last year. Seven of her family members had also opted for what she called the "preventive measure."
"It's not like we are wealthy people, but they'll kidnap you for a watch.. Everyone is living in fear," she said.
Xega, a company that provides the service, is located in the Mexican city of Quererato. According to the Reuters article, it charges $4,000 for the chip and an annual fee of $2,200.
While Xega is thriving in Mexico, and plans to expand its services to other countries where the threat of kidnapping is increasing. Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela have been cited as possible Xega destinations. In the United States, Verichip Corp. employs similar technology to identify patients in critical condition at hospitals and maintain a close watch on dementia sufferers.
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