AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

4 August Carlos Navarro Sugich, Procurador de Justicia en Sonora, announced that six members of a kidnapping gang had been arrested in the south of Sonora. The gang is suspected of being responsible for kidnappings for ransom in Alamos on 13 September 2013, 28 April 2014 and 30 July 2014. In the first case the victim was killed. The police recovered the ransom that the family paid in the latest incident.

6 August During a visit to Tabasco, Laura Trejo, Directora de la Asociacion Alto al Secuestro, said at a meeting attended by Renato Sales, el Coordinador Nacional Antisecuestro, Arturo Nunez, Gobernador de Tabasco and local businessmen and government officials, that kidnapping incidents over the first six months of 2014 showed an increase of 60% over the same period the previous year. She said there had been 75 incidents in 2014 compared to 47 in 2013.

7 August During a visit to Tabasco, Renato Sales Heredia, el Coordinador Nacional Antisecuestro, said that statistics produced by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica showed a 23% decrease in the number of reported kidnappings throughout the country from May to June 2014. There were 139 reported kidnapping in May and 111 in June. He also said the monthly number of reported kidnappings in Tabasco had reduced by 53% from 14 in January to 6 in July.

8 August After an anonymous tip off, agents from la Procuraduria de la Republica and la Policia Federal mounted a joint operation during which 24 kidnapping victims (13 Mexicans, 5 Hondurans, 5 Guatemalans and a Salvadorian) were rescued from two kidnappers’ safe houses. Two suspected kidnappers were arrested. The kidnappers had demanded up to USD7,000 for the release of each victim.

15 August An article in the Washington Post stated that the number of kidnappings in Mexico to date in 2014 was the largest on record with official figures recording 1,698 incidents. It added that government officials concede that only a small percentage of victims, estimated as low as 10%, report the crime as the police are sometimes involved in kidnappings and are not trusted by the public. The Association to Stop Kidnapping (Asociacion Alto al Secuestro) recorded 3,038 kidnappings in 2013. Another group led by ex-kidnapping victim, Fernando Ruiz Canales who now helps negotiate for the release of hostages, put the 2014 total at 27,740 or 76 incidents each day. At the mid-point of 2014, official statistics showed 808 reported incidents, a drop of 17%, but Alto al Secuestro reported an increase of 56% over the same period. In the past the rich were the main targets of kidnapping but this has changed and those who work in the “cash economy” such as shopkeepers, taxi drivers, service employees, parking attendants and taco vendors have now become targets. Students with parents willing to pay ransoms are also common targets.

19 August A report published by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica covering reported kidnapping statistics, showed that in only three states, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz, has there been an increase in the number of incidents during the first six months of 2014 when compared with the same period in 2013. The 2014 figure for Tabasco was 63 cases compared to 43 in 2013, an increase of 46%. In Tamaulipas, which is now in first place for the number of kidnappings, the number increased from 91 in 2013 to 134 in 2014 or 47%. The figures for Veracruz show an increase from 53 in 2013 to 93 in 2014 (75%) which puts the state in second place in the country.

19 August The US State Department re-issued a travel warning for people planning to visit Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Mexico. This warning replaces the previous one issued on 9 January 2014. The warning states: “US citizens have been a target of violent crimes such as kidnapping, carjacking and robbery by organised criminal groups in various Mexican states. Exercise caution in travelling to the business and shopping districts in the north east section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks and central downtown section”. The travel warning provides updated information about the security situation in Mexico and gives additional information on travel restrictions. It also mentions that even though homicide rates have reduced in Ciudad Juarez, the area still has the highest homicide rates in Mexico.

19 August Mexico State Government Secretary, Jose Manzur, told Radio Formula that at least seven people had been kidnapped in the popular tourist town in central Mexico, Valle de Bravo, with three kidnappings occurring during the past few days. He added that the victim in the first case was rescued and three suspects arrested while of the other six victims, two have been freed and four are still being held by their kidnappers. The non-governmental organisation, Alto al Secuestro, said fifteen kidnappings had been carried out in Valle de Bravo in the past month. Victims had claimed that drug traffickers from other states had been responsible. According to official figures, Mexico state had the most reported kidnapping incidents in July with 40, followed by Tamaulipas (32), Guerrero (20), Federal District (17) and Morelos (15). Since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office on 1 December 2012 and up to 31 July 2014, Alto al Secuestro has recorded 4,809 kidnappings throughout the country. Official figures show 2,634 kidnappings over the same period.

23 August During the 36th session of el Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Publica (CNSP), President Pena Nieto announced that for the first six months of 2014, both reported kidnapping and extortion incidents had reduced compared to the same period in 2013. He said since from the launch of la Estrategia Nacional Antisecuestro, kidnapping incidents had reduced by 6.6% and extortion by 19.9%.

23 August During a meeting between el Consejo Ciudadano de Seguridad Publica and members of the government of Baja California State, Renato Sales Heredia, el Coordinador Nacional Antisecuestro, said that according to statistics produced by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica the number of reported kidnapping incidents had reduced from 113 in June to 98 in July or 13.27% at a national level. He added that the reduction from July 2013 to July 2014 was 35.53% or 152 incidents in 2013 to 98 incidents in 2014.

25 August Isabel Miranda de Wallace, President of Alto al Secuestro (Stop Kidnapping) said that there had been an increase of almost 50% in the number of kidnappings in the country over the six months from January to June 2014 when compared with the same period in 2013. She added that these figures contradict the government’s official figures but they had been calculated from investigations and registrations of cases by Alto al Secuestro.

26 August According to statistics released by el Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC) for the first four months of 2014 the top ten cities for reported kidnapping incidents were: Reynosa, Tamaulipas (25); Cuernavaca, Morelos (23); Victoria, Tamaulipas (22); Morelia, Michoacan (16); Villahermosa, Tabasco (15); Chilpancingo, Guerrero (12); Tijuana, Baja California (11); Cardenas, Tabasco (10); Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (8) and Tampico, Tamaulipas (8).

USA

2 August An El Paso Police Department spokesman confirmed that the police are aware of the extortion scam that has been circulating among the local medical community. A person calls a doctor’s office and asks for the doctor by name. The caller claims to be from a drug cartel and states the cartel has kidnapped the doctor’s son or daughter. On some occasions a crying child can be heard. The caller gives instructions aggressively, demands a ransom and orders the doctor to wire money to Mexico. The victim does not realise no one has been kidnapped until after sending the money. The scam has also been reported in other parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

4 August An unnamed 44 year old woman was kidnapped at gunpoint from a bar in Los Angeles. She was held in deplorable conditions in a garage in Rowland Heights while the kidnappers contacted her family and demanded USD110,000 for her release. The police rescued the victim on 6 August and arrested two men and two women in connection with her kidnapping.

18 August Albuquerque Police said that doctors have been the target of virtual kidnapping scams. A person calls a doctor claiming to be from a cartel, having the doctor’s daughter and threatening to kill her if the doctor does not pay quickly the demand of thousands of dollars. The caller does not allow the doctor to hang up the phone. One doctor reported that he heard a girl screaming in the background during the call.

29 August The Houston FBI warned the public of the increase in “virtual kidnapping” calls. The fraud typically involves an individual or criminal organisation who contacts a victim by telephone and demands a payment for the return of a “kidnapped” family member. However, no actual kidnapping has taken place and is a scam to try to force the victim into paying money through a wire transfer. In June and July, the FBI received multiple reports that doctors in McAllen, Laredo, Brownsville and Del Rio, Texas, had been targeted.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Honduras

22 August La Policia Militar arrested eight suspected kidnappers during an operation in El Carmen, San Pedro Sula. This was the second operation carried out by La Policia Militar during the past week in the fight against kidnapping gangs. During the evening of 19 August, agents from el Grupo Especial Antisecuestro and las Policias Nacional y Militar captured three suspected members of a kidnapping gang. This operation was a follow up to the kidnapping of a woman for whom they demanded a ransom of 1 million Lempiras (USD47,000). The kidnappers were arrested during the payment of the ransom in a workshop in Barandillas, San Pedro Sula.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Bolivia

6 August Jorge Perez, Government Interior Minister, announced that three kidnappers, Colombian nationals, had been killed in exchanges of fire with police agents who had mounted an operation to rescue a kidnapped couple in Santa Cruz. Two kidnappers died at the time of the rescue and one more, believed to be the leader of the kidnapping gang, was killed during follow up operations. A fourth man, a Bolivian, was also killed subsequently. In addition, two more members of the gang were arrested. The kidnapping had happened on 3 August in Cotoca. The gang had demanded a ransom of USD200,000.

Colombia

2 August An unnamed 15 year old boy was kidnapped while driving with his father to his finca near Tesalia, Huila. The father was freed to collect 20 million pesos (USD10,625) ransom. The kidnappers were two armed men dressed in Colombian army fatigues. The police believe they were members of el Frente Joselo Losada of FARC. As a result of pressure by the security forces, the boy was released 48 hours after being kidnapped.

27 August La Universidad de Caldas announced that Andres Felipe Calle Valencia, a Geologist attached to el Servicio Geologico Colombiano, had been released by the country’s second largest guerrilla group, el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), who had kidnapped him on 29 June in Aguachica, Cesar department. The victim was handed over to a humanitarian commission headed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The circumstances of the release were not revealed.

Paraguay

6 August Jorge Isao Kawada, of Japanese descent, was kidnapped by armed men wearing camouflage uniform with EPP badges in la Colonia Chiriguelo, about 15 kilometres from Pedro Juan Caballero, Amambay department. The victim was released several hours later after his family had paid a ransom approaching USD50,000. Although the victim claimed the kidnappers were from the EPP, the police disputed this and said they were common criminals pretending to be members of EPP.

Venezuela

18 August According to figures released by the Cicpc, kidnapping incidents reduced by 47.8% during the first six months of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013. Up to 30 June 2014, 110 kidnapping incidents were reported whereas in 2013 over the same period there were 230 reported cases. However, these figures are not a true reflection as many cases are not reported. The figures are not supported by those published by other organisations such as la GNB and la Fiscalia. Criminologist Fermin Marmol Garcia calculated that 90% of the kidnapping incidents in the country are short term and are not reported. In Caracas, short term kidnapping is most common whereas outside the capital the incidents are for longer periods. The zones in Caracas where the higher number of incidents occur are El Cafetal, Macaracuay, La Tahona and Prados del Este. According to unofficial figures, nine kidnapping victims have been killed in captivity this year.

18 August Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Minister for the Interior, Justice and Peace, told a press conference that during the first 31 weeks of 2014, the number of kidnappings had been reduced by 52.3% when compared to the same period in 2013. He added that the number of reported kidnapping incidents over this period in 2013 was 245 whereas for the same period in 2014 there were 117 reported kidnapping incidents. Only one victim of the 117 has yet to be released. In 60% of the cases, the victim had been released as a result of police pressure. He admitted that some families had paid ransoms for the release of a victim. A number of kidnapping gangs had been arrested.

29 August Jose Gregorio Sierralita, Director del Cicpc, said that the largest kidnapping gangs are centred on Barlovento, Ocumare del Tuy and los Valles del Tuy, Miranda state. He added that statistics released by el Cicpc and GNB showed there have been 70 reported kidnappings in Caracas during the first six months of 2014.

31 August The local military command of Integral Protection Zone (Zodi), Miranda State, arrested five people in Caucagua, 70 kms east of Caracas, suspected to be members of “Los Unionists” a group dedicated to extortion against construction entrepreneurs and traders in the State. Sources said the gang demand a monthly “vacuna” as protection money against the threat to kidnap family members. Caucagua along with San Jose de Rico Chica and Higuerote, is a town where businessmen of Portuguese decent work. They are very concerned by the level of kidnapping targeting them. The latest kidnapping of a Portuguese businessman was earlier in August. He owns a liquor store on the road between Caucagua and Higuerote and was kidnapped by armed men as he opened his store. He was released after being held for three days after two members of the Bolivarian National Guard were killed in a shootout while attempting to collect the ransom money.

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