AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

3 December During the 18 Reunion Nacional del Grupo de Planeacion y Analisis Estrategico contra el Secuestro in Baja California, the State Governor, Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, said that kidnappings in the state had reduced by 63%. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss strategic actions to combat kidnapping.

4 December Agents from la Policia Federal working with agents from the Colombian security forces, rescued a Colombian citizen and arrested two Mexican kidnappers in Bosque del Cimatario, Santiago de Queretaro. The Colombian businessman, who works in the ranching industry, was kidnapped on 3 November. The kidnappers contacted members of the victim’s family in Mexico and Colombia in an effort to force them to pay an unspecified ransom.

4 December La Procuraduria General de Justicia del Estado de Baja California announced that three men had been arrested and one killed, the presumed leader of the gang, during an operation to rescue two brothers whose business is selling vehicles and breeding chickens. The two victims had been kidnapped at around 2:00pm on 12 November at their chicken breeding farm at Colinas del Sol, Tijuana, by four armed men who took them to a safe house at Real de la Loma, Loma Bonita, Tijuana. The kidnappers demanded USD1 million for the victims’ release. On 23 November, the family made a ransom payment much below the amount demanded and one of the brothers was released. The kidnappers demanded the remainder of the ransom for the release of the second brother. La Unidad Estatal de Atencion al Delito de Secuestro investigated the case and, acting on information, mounted an operation to rescue the second brother.

7 December The army at the weekend rescued 21 migrants who had been kidnapped by gunmen of the Gulf Cartel and were being held for ransom in Lomas de la Torre, Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The gunmen had been holding the migrants, who said they had been kidnapped on 1 December, for ransom as they contacted their families for money. The army did not arrest any of the kidnappers during the operation.

8 December According to figures released by the National Public Security System, during the first ten months of 2015 there were 1,064 reported kidnapping incidents, a drop of 32.4% on the 1,619 reported incidents over the same period in 2014. The number of reported extortion incidents was also down over the same period. There were 4,479 investigations opened during the period January to October 2015 compared to 5,400 over the same period in 2014, a drop of 17%. There was some scepticism at the government figures as many incidents are not reported. The number of reported kidnappings in Mexico State declined from 145 for the period January to October 2014, to 124 over the same period in 2015, a drop of 14.5%. Over the same period in Nuevo Leon reported kidnappings reduced from 37 in 2014 to 17 in 2015, a 54% drop. In Sinaloa, they fell from 17 to 9, a 45% drop and in Guerrero from 95 to 68.

8 December Javier Duarte de Ochoa, Governor of Veracruz State, announced the formation of la Coordinacion Regional de Combate al Secuestro with headquarters in la Zona Norte. He said that over the period 2010 to 2015, 511 kidnapping cases had been reported in Veracruz. In 2014 kidnappings peaked when 144 cases were reported. As a result of the use of specialist teams investigating the incidents, in 2015 the number had dropped to 90 reported cases. He added that Alto al Secuestro had recognised Veracruz as the leading state in the detention of kidnappers. In 2010, 13 suspects were arrested whereas in 2015 to the end of November, 318 suspected kidnappers had been arrested.

10 December President Enrique Pena Nieto speaking at the National Human Rights Award 2015 ceremony said he was sending two new legal initiatives aimed at combating kidnapping to Congress for approval. The first proposal, the General Law for Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Related to Disappeared Persons, provides for the creation of a national search system which would mobilise law enforcement within hours of a reported disappearance. It would also create a national forensics registry, a national missing persons registry and a citizens council to evaluate the national search system. The second proposal is the General Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Related to Torture which would define what actions constitute torture and their respective punishments, coordinate government response and guarantee victims’ rights. It also provides for the creation of a national registry for torture cases, a special investigation unit to operate at state and federal level and a torture prevention organisation made up of human rights groups and Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH).

11 December Many drug war observers and local citizens are very sceptical about the government’s claims that it has registered significant reductions in the rate of kidnapping in 2015. The scepticism is related to the reality that kidnapping and ransom operations by drug cartels and smaller criminal groups have increased in recent years as an extremely profitable business. Kidnapping and ransom operations form a large part of drug cartels’ criminal portfolio . Some cartels, such as Los Zetas, can obtain as much as half of their income through ransom payments. While the reduction shown by official figures is impressive, the actual number of kidnappings is not accurate as official figures only reflect those incidents that are reported. Due to the fear of cartel reprisals and of corrupt police officials, the vast majority of kidnappings are unlikely to be counted. According to InSightCrime.org, estimates derived from victimisation surveys suggest approximately 98% of kidnappings are never reported and would, therefore, not appear in the SNSP statistics.

13 December El Coordinador Estatal Antisecuestros de Tamaulipas, Willy Zuniga Castillos, said that, contrary to many observations, the number of kidnappings in the state had reduced by 30% in 2015 when compared to 2014. He added that assistance from residents had increased by more than 80% in 2015 which made it easier to locate safe houses where kidnap victims were being held and to rescue them.

14 December Martin de Jesus Martinez Trujillo, a restaurant entrepreneur, was shot dead while trying to save his daughter, Wendy Martinez Ortiz (16), from being kidnapped in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, during the evening. The kidnappers shot Sr. Martinez three times before fleeing the scene with his daughter. On 16 December, the authorities released a statement saying that the girl had been found but the kidnappers had not been arrested. The kidnappers contacted the family and demanded a large sum of money for her release. There were unconfirmed reports that the family had paid a ransom.

16 December Monica Jurado Maycotte, ex-daughter in law of Marta Sahagun and former President Vicente Fox, was released by her kidnappers after being kidnapped in April in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, after dropping her two sons at Jose Vasconcelos School. It is believed that the kidnappers were the same group that kidnapped Diego Fernandez de Cevallos in 2010 because of the similarities of their ability to hold a victim for many months and for their negotiating strategy. The kidnappers operate in Queretaro and Guanajuato. No details were given about the circumstances of the victim’s release or if a ransom had been paid.

17 December Jaime Ramos Neri, el delegado del Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional (Cisen) del Estado de Mexico, was kidnapped by two armed men from outside his residence in Cacalomacan, Toluca, Estado de Mexico, at around 10:00pm as he returned home with his family. Cisen studied photographs of the kidnappers and recognised one of them. The victim regained his freedom during the night of 19 December. The authorities did not reveal where or the circumstances of the release.

21 December La Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestro (Conase) said that kidnapping in the country over the period January to November 2015 had reduced by 27.77% when compared to the same period in 2014.La Comisionada Patricia Bugarin Gutierrez, Head of Conase, said that the most recent figures produced by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema de Seguridad Publica (SENSP) for January to November 2015 showed 947 reported kidnapping incidents compared to 1,311 over the same period in 2014. In addition, there was a reduction of the number of reported cases in November from 102 cases in 2014 to 90 cases in 2015.

21 December According to figures published by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SENSP), Tamaulipas State recorded the most reported kidnapping incidents during the eleven months of 2015 and Jalisco State recorded the most extortion cases. The leading states for reported kidnappings were: Tamaulipas (298), Estado de Mexico (162) and Veracruz (109). The figures for extortion show: Jalisco (829), Estado de Mexico (614), el Distrito Federal (587) and Nuevo Leon (481).

22 December La presidenta de la asociacion Alto al Secuestro, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, challenged the figures released by Conase saying that she was surprised that they are only on a state basis and not a national basis. She added that Alto al Secuestro had recorded 168 kidnapping incidents involving 211 victims in November. The number of incidents had increased by 9% and the number of victims had increased by 19% compared to October’s figures. She also said that, to date in 2015, Alto al Secuestro had recorded 1,665 kidnapping incidents and not 947 as stated by SENSP. The discrepancy between official figures and those from organisations such as Alto al Secuestro and el Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano is due to the method of collecting information about incidents. Official government figures only include those reported to the local authorities of the 31 federal states and el Distrito Federal. They do not include any incidents that have been reported to the federal authorities such as el Ejercito, la Marina, el Cisen, la PGR or la Policia Federal. According to the website of SENSP, between January and November 2015 there were 947 kidnappings reported to the local authorities in the states. In addition there were 428 kidnappings reported to the federal authorities which were not included in the official figures. The true figure for the period should be 1,375. Similarly, official figures released for 2013 and 2014 do not include cases reported to the federal authorities.

26 December According to la Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) 5,622 investigations into kidnapping for ransom incidents were instigated over the period January 2010 to October 2015 in the 31 federal states and el Distrito Federal as a result of denuncias being lodged by victims’ families. In recent years the Federal Government has instigated various initiatives to fight kidnapping. Among these initiatives were special operations in the states of Tabasco and Tamaulipas to combat organised crime groups.

30 December Guillermo Teran, el titular de la Fuerza Antisecuestro (FAS) de la Procuraduria General del Justicia Federal (PGJDF) said that in 2015 in el Distrito Federal there were 54 reported kidnapping incidents which was eight less than in 2014 and six less than 2013. During the same period, 19 criminal gangs were dismantled and 182 delinquents apprehended. Of the 61 kidnapping victims, 56 were released safe and well but five lost their lives during their captivity. He added that 635 extortion incidents were reported over the period, four criminal gangs practising this crime were dismantled and 131 criminals arrested.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Honduras

12 December It was reported that eleven young people were kidnapped from the Central Park in El Paraiso, El Paraiso Department, by four heavily armed men. They were forced onto a vehicle and driven into the mountains in a coffee growing area. However, when they reached Los Llanos, the kidnappers let their victims free after one of them had jumped from the vehicle and run to a nearby house from where he raised the alarm. Patrols from el Quinto Batallon de la Policia Militar del Orden Publico (PMOP) were deployed to look for the victims. The kidnappers had demanded a large sum of money for the release of the victims as among them was a son of la senora Sahar Qusta de Zedan, owner of a number of gas stations in El Paraiso. The PMOP are looking for the perpetrators of the crime. Parents of some of the supposed hostages later said that it was not a kidnapping but had resulted because one of the students had a mobile telephone stolen and reported the matter to the police who then reacted. The parents added that the students were celebrating their graduation.

12 December Ronal Amilkar Pena was rescued from his kidnappers by la Policia Nacional who had been assisted by officers from el Grupo Antiextorsion y Secuestro (Gaula) de la Policia de Colombia, in locating where he was being held. The victim had been kidnapped from his home at Las Aldea Los Carboneles, Colon, on 30 November. The kidnappers contacted his family and demanded a ransom of USD200,000. The victim was found in an abandoned house in a rural area on the bank of a river. Four suspects were arrested. Since 2010, the Colombian Gaula has assisted the Honduras police with 69 rescues, 16 releases through pressure and the arrest of 186 suspects. To date in 2015, the Gaula has assisted in 18 rescues and 7 releases due to pressure.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Brazil

25 December A 75 year old businessman in the construction industry whose name was not released for security reasons, was rescued in a combined operation mounted by Santa Catarina police and the Integrated Tactical Special Enforcement Group (Tiger) of the Parana Civil Police when they burst into a house bin Ipanema on the coast of Parana. Two men were arrested. Earlier, the police had arrested two other men during the ransom negotiations and used information obtained from them to mount the rescue operation.

Colombia

3 December The army announced that a soldier, Jesus Angel Rojas Delgado, a conscript, had been kidnapped near San Vincente del Caguan, Caqueta, while on leave. His father reported the incident to the authorities. La Brigada 12 del Ejercito said that members of el Bloque Sur of FARC were responsible. On 7 December, Comandante Jorge Briceno of FARC-EP admitted that it was responsible for the kidnapping. He went on to say that FARC intended to release their victim and called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist.

7 December El Grupo Antiextorsion y Antisecuestro (Gaula) de la Policia Metropolitana de Cali, rescued a youth who had been kidnapped on 23 November in Cali, Valle de Cauca. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded 300 million pesos (USD118,700) for his release. The Gaula located the kidnappers’ hideout in Cauca Seco, Palmira, Cali, and mounted a rescue operation. A man and woman were arrested.

8 December Engineer Alexander Almanza (33) was released after being kidnapped on 6 November by members of el Frente Heroes y Martires de Santa Rosa of the ELN. He was kidnapped while working for Dinacol on a new milk store in Simiti, south Bolivar. The victim said he was well treated during his captivity. General Jorge Humberto Jerez, Commander of la Segunda Division del Ejercito, said that Dinacol had paid 30 million pesos (USD11,900) for the victim’s release. He was handed over by ELN to members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Colombia.

12 December Over many years of practical experience countering kidnapping, el Grupo Antiextorsion y Secuestro (Gaula) de la Policia Nacional de Colombia has built a worldwide reputation in combating the crimes of kidnapping and extortion. As a result, many countries have sent police officers to the Gaula Anti-kidnapping and Anti-Extortion School. Among the police forces to take advantage of the courses are those from: Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, Dominican Republic, Panama, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Spain, Haiti, Nicaragua and the Philippines. The Gaula has assisted police forces from Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru and Panama in 82 rescues of victims and 19 releases through pressure on the kidnappers, and also the arrest of 253 suspects.

Ecuador

11 December Joaquim Vladimir CM (21), a businessman in the agriculture industry, was rescued in a joint operation by the Ecuadorian la Unidad Antisecuestros y Extorsion (Unase) de la Policia Nacional, and the Colombian el Grupo de Accion Unificada por la Libertad Personal (Gaula), after being kidnapped on 3 November. The victim was kidnapped by three armed men while conducting business in Ipiales, Colombia. His family received a telephone call from a man with a Colombian accent who claimed to be a member of the guerrilla group, el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), demanding USD200,000 for the victim’s release and threatening to kill him if the money was not paid. The family received further threatening calls during the 37 days of the victim’s kidnapping. Unase and the Gaula located the victim to a rural zone of el Municipio de Puerres in Narino department, Colombia, near the border with Ecuador. A joint force of 40 members of Unase and the Gaula mounted the rescue operation.

Venezuela

12 December Agents from el Grupo Antiextorsion y Secuestro (Gaes 52) in conjunction with el Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas of Anzoategui arrested two men and a woman in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Rafik al Yassin (63), a businessman of Syrian descent who owned D’Pana liquor shop and a bakery in Anaco with his sons. The victim, who had lived in Venezuela for six years, was kidnapped on 3 September while travelling in a vehicle in Anaco. The kidnappers contacted the family and demanded a ransom of 1.3 million bolivares (USD208,000). The family said that they had not paid a ransom.

16 December Five suspects were arrested in connection with the kidnapping of a female lawyer (28) on 13 December in a residential area of Los Corales de Tucacas, estado Falcon. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of 450,000 bolivares (USD70,900). The family reported the incident to el Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas (Cicpc) who initiated a search operation. Officers found the victim tied to a tree in a forest near Brisas del Mar and discovered the suspects nearby.

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