A friend recently asked what I thought of a Stratfor article about kidnapping in Mexico. In particular he asked if Mexico is being focused on to take heat off Colombia and target Mexican social movements. As the House of Representatives just approved $300 million in military aid to Mexico, it's especially relevant. On March 11, Friends of Brad Will is organizing a caravan to D.C. to press Congress on stopping Plan Mexico. Below is my answer, in article-esque form.
On a topical level, I am not very familiar with the kidnapping situation in Mexico. I also found it amusing (though not surprising) how little the authors touch on the infiltration of the drug cartels into all levels of government. But I do agree with you that this fits well with the increasing rhetoric we see coming from the administration regarding violence in Mexico. In my view, it's all circular. Drugs come through Mexico for U.S. consumers. The cartels use this money to buy U.S. weapons, among other things. Cartels splinter due to the arrest or killing of leaders, due to the money involved, or due to new players in the game. This increases cartel-on-cartel violence. Add to the mix Calderon's "drug war", and you have cartels, cops, and soldiers all killing each other, leading to more than 6,000 homicides in 2008. Of course the drug business itself isn't effected because the police, military and civil administration on all levels are either so corrupt or so inept that all they do is tragically increase the body count.
Meanwhile, neo-liberalism continues, exacerbating poverty. Paired with the corruption, impunity and violence of the state, that inevitably leads to protests and rebellions. The successes of popular movements in places like Oaxaca and Atenco, paired with the ability of armed groups like the EPR to strike the state's infrastructure at will, certainly is causing the Mexican government a lot of distress. This is especially the case as now more than ever movements in various states, such as Oaxaca, Morelos, Michoacan, Chiapas, Guerrero, DF, etc., are finding common cause with one another and are refusing to resort to electoral politics as a remedy. And although I'm too cynical to put much stock in it, anywhere you go in Mexico you'll hear talk about something big happening in 2010.
Of course, not only is the Mexican government concerned about this, but the U.S., too. Mexico is too good of a client to lose. So in response they rolled out the Merida Initiative, or Plan Mexico. This is a $1.6 billion package to Mexico, with a small amount of it going to countries in Central America. Much of it will go to equipping and training the Mexican military and police forces - who are not only corrupt, but implicated repeatedly in severe human rights abuse cases. Plan Mexico fulfills several objectives: it reasserts U.S. hegemony over Mexico and Central America lost due to the war on Iraq, it gives Calderon the tools to deal with social movements, and since no actual money is leaving the U.S., only "services," it's a nice boon to U.S. corporations. All of this without having to face the fact that U.S. drug consumption and U.S. weaponry is largely what is causing the violence and U.S. neo-liberal policies are largely what's causing the poverty that leads to social movements or social crimes.
Since Plan Mexico has to be approved yearly (it runs over three years), and since it is $1.6 billion, and since Plan Colombia has been such a failure (at least in terms of its stated goals), fearmongering about a violent Mexico such as this article does is necessary. It plays right into the hands of the military industrial complex and U.S. efforts to keep the Monroe Doctrine going in the 21st century.
It's just another attempt to keep reality from interfering with their plans. You're much more likely to be extorted by a cop in Mexico than a kidnapper. Of course the occasional randomness and brutality of it make it a particularly disturbing crime, but to the average visitor or the average Mexican, it's not a prominent concern.