Tens of millions of Mexicans could find their cellphones disconnected this weekend if the government goes ahead with a new law meant to fight crime by forcing people to register their identities, says a Reuters report.
Advertisements on government radio and television have been urging Mexicans for weeks to register their cellphones by sending their personal details as a text message, but last week, 30 million lines remained unregistered as the Saturday deadline neared, says the report.
Mexico's largest wireless operator, America Movil, which is controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, is urging senators to extend the deadline for implementing the law, passed a year ago to try to stop criminals from using cellphones for extortion and to negotiate ransoms in kidnappings.
The report says that most of Mexico's 84 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets with a limited number of minutes of use that can be easily bought in stores. The phones can be topped up with more minutes through street corner vendors.
Mexico is plagued by organized crime, from drug trafficking to express-kidnappings of taxi passengers to force them to make cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines. Increased media reports of kidnappings in 2008 led to calls for the cellphone registry.