AMERICA – NORTH
3 December The Criminality Index created by Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy, evaluates the risk to people, businesses and economies caused by violent crime in 198 countries. Mexico ranked third, behind Afghanistan and Guatemala. The consultancy pronounced Mexico as an “extreme risk” country. Each country is given a numerical risk figure ranging from 10, low risk, to 0, high risk. The index looks for the widespread prevalence of organised crime, drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, robbery and other criminal activities that involve or lead to violence. Mexico scored 1.17 points with the prevalence of drug trafficking organisations as the major driver of crime in the country. The drug gangs are also involved in kidnapping, extortion and robbery.
3 December During a presentation of la Cartilla de Derechos de las Personas de Victimas de Secuestro, Javier Perez Arcega, el director adjunto de la Division de Gendarmeria de la Policia Federal, said that all criminal groups are involved in kidnapping, extortion and other illicit activities. The leaders of criminal groups use cells and gangs as sub-contractors in territories where they have influence to do the dirty work. He provided federal figures for reported kidnappings over the past few years: in 2008 – 907; 2009 – 1,162; 2010 – 1,236; 2011 – 1,344; 2012 – 1,317; 2013 – 1,425; 2014 – 1,394; 2015 – 1,054. The states in which the most number of kidnappings have been recorded are: Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Michoacan, Estado de Mexico and Guerrero.
6 December Isabel Miranda de Wallace, la Presidenta de la Asociacion Alto al Secuestro, recommended that there should be a purge in la Procuraduria General de Justicia del Estado de Mexico (PGJEM) because there is a need for more anti-kidnapping units and there is existing corruption. She added that according to the statistics of Alto al Secuestro over the three years to June 2016, of the 7,556 kidnappings recorded in the country, 1,858 were in el Estado de Mexico, 930 in Tamaulipas, 743 in Guerrero and 625 in la Ciudad de Mexico.
10 December The Tamaulipas authorities reported that a convoy of police officers patrolling dirt roads along the border with the US had spotted two small cars and a pickup truck. When the patrol went to investigate, the men in the cars and pickup truck opened fire and there was a shootout. Two cartel gunmen died during the battle while the rest of the gunmen escaped in the pickup. When the police inspected the two cars, they found a kidnapping victim in the trunk of each car who were bound, blindfolded and showed signs of torture. One of the victims was already dead while the other died on the way to hospital.
12 December Members of the “Los Zetas” drug cartel kidnapped at least three passengers at gunpoint after stopping a bus in downtown Piedras Negras, Coahuila. A team of gunmen travelling in two vehicles blocked a passenger bus belonging to the Anahuac travel line, climbed on board, forced the three victims off at gunpoint and into their two vehicles.
13 December A vigilante group in the town of San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero, kidnapped the mother of, Raybel Jacobo de Almonte aka “El Tequilero”, the leader of the drug gang “ Tequileros”, in reprisal for the gang allegedly kidnapping several inhabitants including Isauro de Paz Duque, a construction engineer. Paz Duque’s wife said in a video that the townspeople had kidnapped “El Tequilero’s” mother and she proposed an exchange the lady for her husband. The state government said a negotiating team had been sent to the area and confirmed that five of the two dozen people kidnapped by the gang had been freed but Paz Duque was still being held. He was released during the night of 14 December. The vigilante group then handed over “El Tequilero’s” mother to the state police who in turn handed her back to the gang. The Governor of Guerrero said that the release of Paz Duque had not been negotiated nor had a payment been made. One of the vigilantes said: “They have humiliated us. They have kidnapped our families and we won’t let it happen again”. Governor Hector Astudillo said: “The truth is, they (the vigilantes) are not really community forces nor are they police. They are armed groups that unfortunately carry out acts that generate more violence and confrontation, rather than help”.
20 December El Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC) released a report that showed in October 2016 there were 145 new investigations into reported kidnapping cases countrywide. From January to October 2016, investigations were instigated into 1,249 reported incidents of kidnapping of which 904 were by state agencies and 345 by federal agencies. El Estado de Mexico was in first place and in 14 states the number of kidnapping incidents had risen compared with the same period in 2015. Chiapas showed the greatest percentage increase with 115.14% followed by Zacatecas with an increase of 76.47% over the period.
21 December Isabel Miranda de Wallace, la Presidenta de Alto al Secuestro, announced that reported kidnapping incidents in the country to date had increased by 2% in 2016 compared with 2015. In November, 182 cases were recorded involving 224 victims which showed an increase of 6.4% over the figures for October. During November the states recording the most incidents were: Estado de Mexico – 41; Veracruz – 27 and Tamaulipas – 24. 125 suspected kidnappers were arrested during November, a reduction of 13.7%. The states that arrested the most suspects were: Estado de Mexico – 28, Veracruz – 27 and Tabasco – 10. She added that from 1 December 2012, when President Enrique Pena Nieto took office, to 30 November 2016, Alto al Secuestro had recorded 8,677 cases of kidnapping in the country. Over this period, the states recording the most kidnappings were: Tamaulipas – 1,018; Guerrero – 795; Veracruz – 745 and la Ciudad de Mexico – 676. The states that recorded the least number of incidents were: Yucatan – 5; Baja California Sur – 8 and Aguascalientes – 15.
28 December According to la Procuraduria General del Estado de Coahuila, the state had recorded 16 kidnapping incidents for the year to the middle of December. This is nine less than for the same period in 2015. The number of victims in these cases was 20 compared to 31 in 2015. Of the 20 victims, 19 were released alive and the remaining one was executed by the kidnappers on the same day as the kidnapping.
22 December San Antonio police confirmed that, after responding to a shooting incident in Stonybrook Drive, they found the body of one man and a second man wounded. They also found three men who were being held for ransom at the house. The three men told police that they had been kidnapped by Mexican cartel members in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, before being smuggled across the border into the US. They were forced to call relatives to demand ransom payments for their release.
AMERICA – SOUTH
23 December The NGO, Defendamos la Republica Argentina, that specialises in recording kidnapping for ransom incidents said that there had been a record number of incidents, 359, in 2016 that broke down as follows: la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (144), el Conurbano bonaerensa (184), La Plata (21) and Mar del Plata (10). The previous years with high numbers of kidnapping were 1989 with 189 and 2004 with 256.
2 December According to TV Globo affiliate EPTV, three men were arrested on 1 December in connection with the kidnapping of the manager of Samsung International, Campinas, Sao Paulo, and his family at the end of November. The gang’s plan was to steal USD9 million of electronic equipment from the factory. A truck was loaded but the gang aborted their operation when the crime was discovered. The manager, his wife and two daughters were kidnapped on 29 November around 8:00pm when four criminals forced their way into their residence in Pedreira, Sao Paulo, and manhandled them into a vehicle. The four victims were held in a house in Conchal, Sao Paulo. The police found the car used for the crime with a hand grenade in it. The family were released by the kidnappers on 29 November.
3 December According to the Civil Police in Taquarituba, Sao Paulo, a bank manager, his wife, 4 month old baby and father were held hostage by a gang of four criminals, one armed with a machine gun, for over 12 hours. The incident started at around 7:30pm on 1 December when the criminals broke into the bank manager’s residence. The occupants were held hostage until 5:00am on 2 December when they were taken to a remote piece of land in the countryside. Three criminals remained with the family while the fourth accompanied the bank manager to a bank branch. The bank manager said he withdrew R$390,000 (USD117,470) from the safe and gave it to the criminals. The bank manager and his family were released at around 8:30am on 2 December.
5 December At about 1:00am kidnappers contacted the family of Tarcillo Teixeira dos Santos Filho (33) and said they had kidnapped him and demanded a ransom of R$100,000 (USD30,120). The victim’s father, a worker, said he was unable to pay that amount and offered R$5,500 (USD1,700) that the kidnappers accepted. He delivered the money to the kidnappers who gave him an assurance nothing would happen to his son. On 6 December, a burnt out car was found Cajazeira 8, Bahia, with a charred body inside, believed to be that of the victim.
10 December Raimundo Nonato Cruz, security inspector general of Servi-San in Teresina, was kidnapped along with his wife, mother, children, brother and nephew, during the night from his home by up to 20 armed, hooded men in four cars. The victims were taken to a farm. On 11 December, Cruz was forced to enter the Servi-San headquarters with some of the gunmen who threatened other employees before taking about R$15 million (USD4.52 million). According to witnesses, the gunmen acted very violently while at Servi-San. The operation lasted about 30 minutes. The hostages were released later in the morning of 11 December.
4 December The authorities confirmed that Jorge Enrique Munoz Guevara, a businessman, had been kidnapped by three heavily armed men while driving along the road between Santander de Quilichao and Caloto, Cauca. The family reported the incident to el Gaula de Policia Cauca and said the kidnapping happened at around 7:15am on 2 December. The kidnappers forced the victim out of his car and into another vehicle and drove towards the mountainous region of Caloto. The police added that the family had said that, to date, they had not received any telephone calls from the kidnappers. This was the second kidnapping in Cauca in a month. On 1 November, Rosalba Ariza Tierradentro, a teacher, was kidnapped while travelling along a road near Purace, eastern Cauca.
5 December El Gaula de la Policia en Norte Santander rescued Gloria Maria Contreras Chinchilla (61), a businesswoman, who had been kidnapped by masked men on 6 November from her residence in a rural area of Chinacota along the road to Toledo. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of 1000 million pesos (USD333,333). El Gaula obtained information that led to the rescue operation in a rural area of Arboledas, Norte de Santander, during which two of the delinquents were arrested. The victim was in a poor condition.
6 December Daniel Aragon Russo (48), a civil engineer, and Edgardo Jose Gomez Posada (56), an architect, were kidnapped during the afternoon from their worksite in San Alberto, Cesar. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of 250 million pesos (USD83,400) from the families of the two victims. The authorities stated that the kidnapping of the two victims had been planned in la Penitencia de Alta Seguridad de Combita, a jail in Boyaca, and was carried out by common criminals. The two victims were released three days later but it was not disclosed if a ransom was paid. El Gaula reported that it had intercepted telephone calls between the kidnappers and the families in which the kidnappers gave instructions for the ransom payment.
8 December El director del Gaula de la Policia Nacional, General Fernando Murillo, reported that there had been 165 reported cases of kidnapping for ransom to date in 2016, a reduction of 18% on the number reported in 2015. He added there was also a reduction of 40% in the number of reported cases of extortion from 5,316 in 2015 to 3,150 in 2016. He attributed the reductions to quick reporting by citizens and efficient investigations by the police.
26 December El director del Gaula de la Policia stated that 2016 was closing with a reduction in the number of kidnappings and extortions in the country during the year. He said there had been 188 recorded kidnappings to date and 30 kidnapping gangs had been disbanded with more than 534 kidnappers arrested. In addition, 180 gangs of extortionists had been disbanded and more than 3,500 suspects arrested. Extortion incidents had reduced by 22% from 5,500 recorded cases in 2015 to 4,100 recorded cases in 2016.
31 December The family of businessman Octavio Figueroa who was kidnapped by National Liberation Army (ELN) on 16 March, said he had been released at around noon in Maicao. La Guajira.
7 December Five agents belonging to la Division Antiextorsion y Secuestro de la Policia Nacional Bolivariana were charged with being involved in the kidnapping for ransom of a businessman on 6 December in Santa Cruz de Aragua. The suspects had driven away from the victim’s premises with the victim after demanding a ransom from his family. After several hours, they were stopped by a police patrol on the outskirts of Caracas.
8 December The fishing industry off the coast of Sucre has died along with virtually every industry across the country as a result of the desperate economic situation. Sucre was the home of the fourth largest tuna fishing fleet in the world. Gangs of out of work fishermen prey on those who still go out to sea and steal their catches and engines, sometimes tying them up, throwing them overboard or shooting them. Robberies have been taking place daily and dozens of fishermen have died. As people can no longer make a living from fishing, they are turning to smuggling gas, running drugs and piracy.
13 December Miguel Alvarez Gonzalez (74) was kidnapped in Caracas when he was at a meeting with an Italian friend who has an automobile concession. Two men dressed as policemen entered the building and demanded the Italian accompany them to resolve an issue. Miguel offered to go instead and nothing has been heard of him or from the kidnappers. After originally living in Brazil, he moved to Venezuela over 40 years ago and initially worked in the construction industry before switching to selling second hand cars.
30 December Derek, the son of Venezuelan basketball player, Juan Manaure, who plays for Cangrejeros de Monagas in the Venezuelan national basketball league, was reported to have been kidnapped. It was not known if a ransom demand had been received.