AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

1 August According to a report by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, over the period 1 January to 30 June 2015, Michoacan was the state with the eighth most reported kidnappings with 18 people kidnapped. Tamaulipas was in first place with 177 people reported as kidnapped followed by Estado de Mexico, Guerrero, Veracruz, Tabasco, Distrito Federal and Zacatecas. The monthly figures for Michoacan were: January (3); February (2); March (3); April (3); May (3); June (4). These figures contradict monthly figures for the first six months of 2015 released by Alto al Secuestro that show: January (4); February (2); March (4); April (4); May (3); June (6). A total of 23 reported cases. There were also 27 reported cases of extortion from January to June.

14 August La Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) de Tabasco said that eight people had been killed during two confrontations in Villahermosa after the police had been alerted that kidnappers travelling in a grey vehicle were trying to kidnap an unnamed man. Of the dead, five are suspected kidnappers and three are police agents. The kidnappers fled after being confronted by police and a car chase ensued during which there was a shoot out.

15 August Reporters Without Borders has ranked Veracruz as the third most dangerous place in the world after Iraq and Syria for journalists to work. At least 11 Veracruz journalists have been killed in the past five years. One local journalist, Jorge Sanchez (29), who has relaunched the newspaper, La Union, originally launched by his father and closed after he was murdered, said there appeared to be a campaign in the state to “exterminate anyone who publishes anything that brings bad governance to light”.

18 August Rogelio Barba Alvarez, an academic at la Universidad de Guadalajara, said that criminals prefer “virtual kidnapping” nowadays. One of the favourite methods is for a caller to contact the family claiming to have kidnapped a member of the family. Either it is not possible for the contacted member of family to contact the missing person or the kidnappers threaten against trying to call anyone. The kidnappers then order the family member to deposit a sum of money for the release of the “victim”. In another method, the caller claims that the family member has been involved in a car accident and needs assistance.

19 August Isabel Miranda de Wallace, head of Alto al Secuestro, said at a press conference that during July there were 176 kidnapping incidents involving 225 victims but the state and federal authorities had failed to record 59 incidents that showed inconsistency and manipulation of the figures. She added that of the 59 unrecorded cases, 19 were hidden or misrepresented by federal agencies such as la Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) or la Policia Federal. The remaining 40 cases were omitted by state authorities. Omissions by state included: Estado de Mexico (9); Tabasco (8); Veracruz, Chihuahua and Morelos (3 each); Zacatecas, Michoacan, Coahuila and Oaxaca (2 each); el Distrito Federal, Guerrero, Baja California, Guanajuato, Quintana Roo and San Luis Potosi (1 each). During July 234 suspects of being involved in kidnapping were arrested by the authorities.

Alto al Secuestro also said that Veracruz had the best record for rescuing kidnap victims (12) and arresting kidnapping suspects (54) during July. Other states with a good record for arresting kidnapping suspects included: Tabasco (21); Estado de Mexico (16); Morelos (13). Alto al Secuestro recorded 1,342 kidnapping victims throughout the country during the first six months of 2015 and 1,298 kidnapping suspects had been arrested. Ten states share 82.31% of reported kidnappings: Estado de Mexico, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Morelos, Distrito Federal, Veracruz, Michoacan, Tabasco, Jalisco and Oaxaca. States that did not record a single incident during the first six months were: Aquascalientes, Chiapas, Colima, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Yucatan.

19 August Renato Sales, el coordinator nacional antisecuestro, speaking at the end of la 33 Asemblea Plenaria de la Conferencia Nacional de Procuracion de Justicia, warned parents to take great care with the information children are posting on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook as there has been a marked increase in the kidnapping of minors. Kidnappers are using the information from social media sites to target children.

22 August La Primera Reunion del Grupo de Planeacion y Analysis Estrategico para el Combate al Secuestro in the north of the country took place in Chihuahua. Delegates from Chihuahua, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Durango, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and agents from la Unidad Antisecuestro del Distrito Federal attended. The purpose of the meeting was share experiences, good practices, coordinate actions and establish working relationships in order to fight the crime of kidnapping. Chihuahua hosted the event in recognition of the fact that kidnapping has reduced by 95% in the state.

23 August Since February a bloody war has been conducted between rival factions of the Gulf Cartel in the cities Matamoros and Reynosa in Tamaulipas resulting in violent gun battles and an increase in kidnapping. As a result, the government has set up new anti-kidnapping units in Matamoros, Ciudad Victoria and Reynosa.

USA

11 August A New Jersey mother in an effort to warn others, contacted CBS to tell the story about being called by “kidnappers” claiming to have her son. The criminals first called her 17 year old son claiming to be holding his father. They threatened to blow his father’s head off if he did not pay USD3,000. The teenager frantically told them to call his mother on his elder brother’s cell phone. The criminals called her, said they were holding her younger son and told her to wire USD3,000 to Florida and Puerto Rico if she wanted to see her son again. At the same time, the criminals told the younger son to go to a named park and asked him to describe what he was wearing so they could identify him. They also told him not to answer any incoming calls or texts and not to hang up on them. He went to the park as instructed and hid behind a tree. The criminals were able to describe to his mother the clothes he was wearing. The family informed the police who tried to trace the cell phone numbers but they had been scrambled. Eventually, they traced the youngster to the park and the kidnapping turned out to be a hoax.

28 August President Obama approved “Presidential Police Directive 30, US Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts”, and signed an Executive Order on the recovery of US hostages taken abroad. In signing the Executive Order, the President outlined the US government’s approach to hostage recovery. He also appointed Jim O’Brien to serve as the first Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Mr. O’Brien will report to the Secretary of State and will work closely with the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell. Mr. O’Brien has extensive experience of working in diplomacy and international negotiations.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Guatemala

5 August La Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) released a statement saying that three men and two women, members of a kidnapping for ransom gang called “Tormenta”, had been arrested. The gang operated in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. The statement added that the gang were suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of a 17 year old student in Zone 1 on 8 April 2015. They initially demanded a ransom of Q1 million (USD131,250) but the family paid a much smaller sum of money and gave some jewellery. The victim was released the following day at the same location where he was kidnapped.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Argentina

19 August Retired racing driver, Eduardo “Lalo” Ramos, was kidnapped while travelling along la Ruta 2 in Berazategui, by a group of men posing as police. He was taken to a house where the kidnappers tortured him with electric shocks and beat him. He was released after payment of a ransom around USD35,000. The victim was driving with a companion to a dinner in a restaurant in Puerto Madero when stopped by the kidnappers. When he did not return to his home in Mar de Plata, the family informed the police. The kidnappers contacted the family and initially demanded a ransom of USD500,000 which was negotiated down to USD35,000. After the family paid the ransom, the victim and his companion were released at around 4:00am near the place where the ransom payment had been made on la autopista 25 de Mayo. The two men had been held for a number of hours.

Brazil

2 August Police arrested two suspects for involvement in the kidnapping of Ariethe Pai, the owner of the hairdressing salon, “Rive”, in Cote d’Azur Gouche,, on 22 July. The victim was held in rural Teolandia, about 280kms from Salvador. According to a police statement, the victim had not been ill treated but was kept chained in a hovel without a bathroom or electricity. After investigating the case for eight days, the police arrested Manuel Candido, a pastor, in Salvador. The suspect had been the driver of the kidnappers’ car. He revealed the location where the victim was being held.

3 August Police officers arrested four men suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of a Korean family who had just arrived at Cumbica airport, Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, on 23 July. Early in the morning of 23 July, a mother with her two children, aged 5 and 8 years, arrived at the airport where they were met by the father, an Executive of an automobile manufacturer. The four left to drive from Cumbica but were stopped on the highway near the airport by three men wearing jackets similar to those worn by the police. They also had a black saloon car with a siren parked by the side of the road. The father got out of the car to speak to the three “policemen” whereupon one of them got into the family’s car and drove off with the mother and children. After a short fight with the father, the other two drove off in the black car. After a few hours, the family car was abandoned with the three occupants near Birmingham. The criminals took three suitcases and drove away. According to the police, criminal gangs are working in the arrivals lobby at the airport. One gang member watches arriving passengers and follows them to see if they leave by private car, taxi or public transport. If they leave in a private car, the “scout” telephones the details of the car to waiting gang members.

12 August The police rescued Leo Bacaltchuk, a farmer from Primavero do Leste (240kms from Cuiaba), who was kidnapped when a man broke into his residence at around 11:00pm on 11 August. The kidnapper forced the victim into a car and drove away. The kidnapper contacted the family and demanded a ransom of BRL1 million (USD310,000) but reduced it to BRL5,000 (USD1,550). The police managed to locate the victim by tracking the GPS on his telephone and mounted a rescue operation during which the kidnapper was killed.

Colombia

13 August Coronel David Tovar, el comandante del Batallon Matamoros, said that Ruben Paye Almazo, el secretario de Gobierno del municipio de Uribia en la Guajira, was found by a military patrol walking alone near La Majayura, Maicao, on the Venezuelan frontier. He had been kidnapped on 12 May 2015 near his residence. The victim said he was being held by an armed group but had not been able to identify them.

16 August Alberto Almario Silva (67), a rancher, was freed after being held for 36 days. The victim was kidnapped on 9 July from a finca in Timana, Huila, by five armed men dressed in camouflage uniform from “Los Ingenieros” kidnapping gang. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of 2,500 million pesos (USD988,900). The Gaula mounted a rescue operation in Resinas, Pitalito, on a house which was being guarded by two men and a woman. During the operation, the Gaula arrested Mercias Portilla Ome, alias “El Loco”, the leader of “Los Ingenieros” who has a previous record of assassinations and extortion.

Ecuador

12 August The police announced that agents from la Unidad Antisecuestro y Extorsion (Unase) had arrested four people in connection with the kidnapping of a businessman in Quito on 4 May 2015. The kidnappers had received a ransom of USD160,000 for the release of the victim who was held for 20 hours.

Paraguay

9 August Abraham Fehr, a Mennonite settler who works on an agricultural project, and one of his employees, Silvano Perez, were kidnapped by suspected members of el Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP) from Colonia Manitoba, Tacuati, San Pedro department. The kidnappers demanded USD20,000 for the release of their victims. Silvano Perez was freed a few hours after the abduction and walked for three hours to freedom. This was the first kidnapping by EPP since they abducted Edelio Morinigo on 5 July 2014 who is still held by the group. On 22 August, the local press reported that the ransom demand was nearer USD500,000 and Francisco de Vargas, Minister of the Interior, claimed that “Esteban or Ruben Marin”, supposed leaders of EPP, are thought to be responsible for the kidnapping and were being hunted down.

Peru

4 August Anderson Atachagua Gomez (21), son of a well-known Huanuco businessman, David Atachagua, was kidnapped during the morning by two armed men as he returned to his house in Amarilis district with his partner Enilt Pando Ibarra (23). They forced the victim to contact his parents using his personal cell phone and demanded a ransom of PEN4 million (USD1,220,000), and continued negotiations using the same method. Police from Lima were deployed to the area and managed to trace the telephone calls. They arrested two men suspected of being involved in the kidnapping and located the place where the victim was held. After eight days in captivity, the victim was rescued.

Venezuela

2 August The body of Vicenzo Del Melo, an Italian businessman, was found in a wooded area of Tiara, Aragua State. He had been kidnapped on 13 July while travelling in his vehicle in Los Teques. The kidnappers contacted the family and demanded a substantial ransom that was not paid. According to sources from Cicpc, on 30 July Gabriel Escalona, aka “Dondo”, a member of the kidnapping and extortion group “el Frank”, was detained in connection with the kidnapping as a result of a Cicpc investigation and tracing of telephone calls. The suspect admitted to being involved in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the victim and showed the police where the victim’s body was buried. Eight more members of “el Frank” were subsequently arrested.

5 August General Sergio Rivero, el jefe de Operaciones de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (Fanb), said that el Comando Antiextorsion y Secuestro de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB) had trained a further 400 agents to fight criminals in Gran Caracas. He added that in addition the force would have 4 armoured cars manufactured in China, 20 tactical units and 70 motorcycles. He also stated that el Comando Antiextorsion y Secuestro will deploy 24 specialist groups throughout the country. During the first six months of 2015, el Comando Antiextorsion y Secuestro had arrested 780 people, 540 involved in extortion and 240 involved in kidnapping. Of 136 criminal gangs that had been dismantled, 40 were involved in kidnapping and 60 in extortion. As a result of the quick response by the Group, 62 victims of kidnapping had been rescued.

10 August The Public Prosecutor reported that John R Pate (70), a US citizen and partner in the US law firm, DeSola, Pate & Brown, since 1981, had been found dead in his apartment in a wealthy eastern neighbourhood of Caracas, the previous evening. His girlfriend, Sally Elizabeth Evan Oquendo (67), was found injured. Local media reported that the two were attacked in a kidnapping that went wrong when two or three men entered their apartment through a bathroom window. The attackers stabbed the couple. The apartment had a video recording surveillance system but the recording equipment had been stolen.

23 August According to information provided by journalist Daniel Colina, Joao Andres Olin Lara, who was kidnapped on 19 August in Catia, was released in Higuerote, Miranda State. No ransom was paid for the victim’s release. The police named the suspected kidnappers as Jhon Alberto Hernandez Barrios, alias “El Jhon”, and Ricardo Enrique Mirabel De La Cruz, alias “Uchi”.

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