AMERICA – NORTH

Canada

1 December Rumours of the kidnapping by Islamic State in Syria of Canadian citizen, Gill Rosenberg (31), have revitalised the debate over Canada’s hostage policy although the alleged victim subsequently posted a message on Facebook saying she was safe and secure. John Babcock, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mail: “Canada’s approach to kidnapping respects firm principles: no policy changes, no prisoner exchanges, no immunity from prosecution and no ransom payments. Foreign Affairs advise against all travel to Syria and Iraq, because of the extremely volatile security situation and Canada’s limited ability to provide assistance to its citizens there, and have done so for several years”. It was noted that the e-mail said “approach” and not “policy” because Canada does not have a definitive policy.

Mexico

1 December La Asociacion Alto al Secuestro challenged the figures released by la Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestro that indicated that kidnapping incidents had decreased by 36% over the period January to October 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013. Alto al Secuestro produced figures showing that from January to October 2013 there were 1,871 reported kidnapping cases whereas for the same period in 2014 there were 2,503 reported cases, an increase of 33.7%.

4 December La Fiscalia Especializada en el Delito de Secuestro de la Unidad Especializada Antisecuestros (UAE) arrested two men, Jose Alejandro Andrade Arias (29), aka “El Pelon”, and Fernando Osuna Rodriguez (30), in Mazatlan, Sinalao, prison for organising the kidnapping of a rancher on 23 August 2014 from the prison. The victim was kidnapped by armed men who blocked his vehicle and forced him into their vehicle as he drove to his residence. They took the victim to a house in Colonia Genaro Estrada from where they contacted his family with a ransom demand of 8 million pesos (USD1 million). After three days, the family paid 506,000 pesos (USD63,250) and the victim was released.

4 December A Veracruz state police spokesman reported that an elite unit had killed 6 kidnapping suspects and rescued two hostages during a raid on a house in Poza Rica. The kidnappers were said to be members of “los Zetas” drug cartel.

7 December Jose Maria Gonzalez Martinez, Subprocurador Contra la Delincuencia Organizada de la Procuraduria de Justicia del Estado de Baja California Norte, said he thought the reason for the increase in number of reported kidnappings in the State was higher for the period January to October 2014 when compared with 2013 as the criteria has been widened. He stated that there have been 41 reported kidnappings in the State in 2014 and Tijuana has made the largest contribution with 29 reported kidnappings over the period.

9 December According to FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Samuel Miranda, the FBI has already investigated 199 kidnappings for ransom in Mexico this year that have a connection with the US. Of these, 79 occurred in Tamaulipas State that borders the US. This makes the State number one for kidnappings. The Resident Agent added that although the kidnappings occur on Mexican territory, the victims have ties with the US. Either it is an US citizen or a Mexican citizen with family in the US. In 2006 the FBI worked on 26 of these cases and has a 90% success rate in recovering kidnap victims. FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee said the increase in kidnappings is due to a drop in profits from drug smuggling and other illegal activities. She added that, although in some cases the victim is involved in the drug trade, a disturbing number of cases involve a victim who is American and is in Mexico to shop, visit friends or family, or as a tourist.

11 December El Comisionado Nacional Antisecuestro, Renato Sales Heredia, stated that the number of reported kidnapping incidents throughout the country had reduced by 13.46% during the past year. According to figures released by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica for the period January to October there were 1,419 reported cases in 2013 whereas in 2014 there were 1,228 reported cases. He added that in October 2013 there were 157 reported cases whereas in October 2014 this had reduced to 99 reported cases.

18 December Local Representative David Martinez Martinez, a member of el Congreso de Morelos, was rescued by from his kidnappers in a joint operation mounted by el Unidad Estatal Contra el Secuestro de Morelos, el Mando Unico policial and la Policia Federal. He had been held for several hours. The alleged kidnappers are thought to be members of the criminal group “Guerreros Unidos”. It is believed the motive for the kidnapping was political as no ransom demand was made.

18 December According to Alto al Secuestro, the number of reported kidnapping incidents in the country in November 2014, 163, was a reduction of 16% when compared with November 2013. However, over the period January to November 2014, the number of reported kidnapping incidents, 2,666, shows an increase of 29.9% over the same period in 2013. In November, the States with the highest number of kidnappings were: Estado de Mexico (44), Tamaulipas (28), Distrito Federal (14), Guerrero (13), Morelos (11), Veracruz (11), Tabasco (7) and Michoacan (6).

19 December Renato Sales, Coordinador Nacional Antisecuestro, said at a press conference that the number of kidnappings over the period January to November 2014 had fallen 15.43% in comparison to the same period in 2013. In 2013, 1,575 incidents were reported whereas in 2014 there were 1.332 reported incidents. In addition, the number of reported kidnapping incidents in November 2014, 102, showed a 34.6% reduction on the number of reported kidnapping incidents in November 2013, 156. La Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestro (Conase) has increased operations in the ten States where about 74% of the kidnappings in the country happen and particularly in Tamaulipas, Morelos, Estado de Mexico, Michoacan and Tabasco.

23 December According to the latest figures released by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, there were 23 reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas State in November. This was on an increase on the numbers for the previous three months- August (20), September (22) and October (21). The total number to date in 2014 for Tamaulipas was 244 reported cases.

24 December Dozens of Roman Catholic priests and hundreds of parishioners marched through the southern city of Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero, demanding the release of Rev. Gregario Lopez Gorostieta who had been kidnapped from his seminary on 21 December. Bishop Maximino Martinez said that there had not been any ransom demand and the reason for the kidnapping was unclear. On 26 December, the Catholic Diocese of Ciudad Altamarino said that the body of the victim had been found with bullet wounds near the city on 25 December.

30 December This year was the first one in which the authorities released the figures for the number of victims of kidnapping rather than expressing them by state as a number per 100,000 inhabitants. According to information from el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica::
1. 56% of kidnapping victims are from four states
2. The states with the largest number of reported kidnapping victims between January and November 2014 were: Tamaulipas (538); Estado de Mexico (186); Veracruz (150); Morelos (123).
3. Baja California Sur and Yucatan did not have a single reported kidnapping incident.
4. In Cuahuila there were 22 reported kidnappings with 7 in September being the largest monthly number.

USA

22 December The Department of State and the FBI warned that holidays and crowds can lead to an increase in kidnapping cases. The FBI said that tracking kidnappings can be difficult and came up with broad categories for adult kidnapping cases. The categories include “traditional” kidnappings where someone is abducted and held for ransom, “express” kidnappings where someone is taken to a bank or ATM and forced to withdraw money, and “virtual” kidnappings where a caller pretends a member of the family is being held and demands that money is wired to a nominated bank account. In addition, there are “mistaken” kidnappings where someone is abducted in mistake for another person.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Costa Rica

5 December According to the ex-governor of Monagas State, Venezuela, a group of Venezuelan exiles now in Costa Rica are the alleged targets of a kidnapping plot by the government of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. The Miami based Nuevo Herald newspaper reported that sources in the Venezuelan government confirmed that a team of intelligence agents posing as members of Maduro’s advanced team for the upcoming meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in January 2015, arrived in Costa Rica to abduct “Gato” Briceno and other prominent exiles.

Guatemala

8 December La Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) reported that Jose Tux Acte (29), aka “Chepe”, had been arrested in Jutiapa. He is accused of being involved with the criminal gang, “los Artilleros”, that was allegedly responsible for the kidnapping of Flavio Arriaza Paredes (26) in Sanarate, El Progreso. The gang demanded a ransom of USD1 million for the victim’s release. The leader of “Los Artilleros”, Howuar Wilfredo Barillas Morales (32), aka “Joward”, had been arrested previously. The PNC are working towards arresting other members of the gang.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Brazil

18 December Alexander G Lee, a Mayor, was kidnapped by four men dressed in police uniforms as he returned home after eating dinner with his parents. The “policemen” arrested him and drove him away in a truck. He was held in a house in Morungava District, Gravatai, Porto Alegre. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family with a ransom demand of 300,000 rias (USD135,000). The police traced the location of the house where the victim was being held and mounted a rescue operation in the early hours of 19 December. There was an exchange of fire during which one suspect was killed, two people arrested and the victim was rescued safely.

Colombia

2 December President Juan Manuel Santos said that he hoped the Peace Talks with FARC would start again before the end of the year. It was generally understood that the Peace Talks had been suspended as a result of the kidnapping of General Ruben Dario Alzate by FARC on 16 November but the President stated the reason for the suspension was the kidnapping of lawyer Gloria Urrego who was accompanying the General. He added that FARC had declared on 26 February 2012 that they would no longer kidnap civilians as part of the Peace Process. The General and his two companions were released on 30 November. A government delegation for the Peace Talks lead by Humberto de la Calle travelled to Cuba the previous day.

16 December Local media reported that Fredy Palacios Ramirez, mayor of Alto Baudo, Choco State, had been kidnapped by alleged rebels from the country’s second largest rebel group, Ejercito Liberacion Nacional (ELN). The mayor along with 11 adults and five children was travelling by boat when, on arrival at La Playa, the ELN seized the boat, kidnapped the mayor and let the other members of the group go free. According to the authorities “El Mocho”, the leader of the local ELN group is responsible for the incident. ELN has yet to claim responsibility.

19 December During a confrontation between the army and members of the mobile column, Jacobo Arenas, from the guerrilla group, FARC, a soldier, Carlos Becerra Ojeda, was kidnapped. The action took place El Carmen, Santander de Quilichao, Cauca. Five soldiers were killed and a further five wounded. FARC released the hostage on 26 December.

23 December La Defensoria del Pueblo, a human rights organisation, said that Javier Eduardo Lucero Monroy, Fiscal of Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, had been kidnapped on the outskirts of Cardono. La Defensoria del Pueblo added that it believed common criminals are responsible for the incident and not members of the guerrilla groups FARC 0r ELN.

Paraguay

20 December Residents of Azote’y, Concepcion, expressed hope that Arlick Flick Bremm (17) and 2nd Officer Edelio Morinigo Florenciano (25) would be released by their Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP) kidnappers in time to spend Christmas with their families. Arlan Flick was kidnapped on 2 April 2014 and Edelio Morinigo on 5 July 2014. There was a rumour that Arlan Flick would be released on Christmas Day. Late in the evening of 25 December after being held 267 days, Arlick Flick Bremm was released by the EPP near Yby Yau, about 40kms from Paso Tuya where he lives. Edelio Morinigo is still being held.

Venezuela

2 December Agents from el Grupo Antiextorsion y Secuestro de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana del Distrito Capital (GAES) rescued a Greek citizen and dismantled a dangerous kidnapping gang called “El Plan” that operated in the Metropolitan Zone of Caracas. The Greek citizen had been kidnapped recently when leaving his residence in the centre of the city. The kidnappers had threatened the victim’s family in telephone calls and had demanded a ransom of 2 million Bolivares (USD318,000) for his release. As a result of GAES investigations, the victim was rescued and nine members of the kidnapping gang arrested.

14 December The body of businessman Antonio del Vecchio Rivas (47) was found in El Limon, Acevedo, Miranda State. The victim had been kidnapped on 4 December from the Licodel drinks distillery, San Fernando del Rey, Paez, Miranda State, by heavily armed men. The victim was forced into a vehicle and driven away. It is understood that the kidnappers contacted the businessman’s family and made a large ransom demand. The authorities believe “El Pochi”, a member of a kidnapping gang operating in the area, to be a prime suspect.

29 December Nie Chunmun (52), a Chinese National, was shot dead by kidnappers as he resisted their attempts to kidnap him. He was leaving his residence in Catia, Avenida Sucre, Caracas, at 6:00am when confronted by armed men. He was shot as he tried to escape. The victim was born in Canton, China, and lived for the past 15 years in Venezuela. He owned two businesses, Wasin 168 in Gato Negro, and Comercial Victoria Liu in Plaza Sucre.

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