AMERICA – NORTH
4 February Enrique Juarez Torres, Editorial Director of El Manana de Matamoros (Tamaulipas), was kidnapped and held for several hours by a group of armed men. The kidnappers protested strongly about articles in the newspaper covering violent crimes in the frontier area and demanded that they be retracted. The kidnappers beat him up while and threatened to kill him if he failed to meet their demands. He was released in front of the newspaper’s offices.
8 February Armed men kidnapped at least 12 people in the southern state of Guerrero. A spokesman for the state prosecutor said that some of those taken were workers at the Media Luna gold mine owned by the Canadian company, Torex Gold Resources. Gabriela Sanchez, a company vice-president, said only one of their workers may have been involved in the incident. Three of the victims were said to work for a contractor. She rejected suggestions that the company had been the subject of extortion and added the kidnappings had not taken inside the grounds of the mine. Juan Zuniga, who claimed to be a representative of the mine workers, appeared to contradict the story when he said that the workers were travelling in a vehicle on the highway between Alto Balsas and Cocula and were about 30 minutes from Cocula when they were kidnapped. Soldiers and police later found a total of 13 people who said they were fleeing from their kidnappers and arrested two suspected gang members. Fred Stanford, President of Torex Gold Resources Inc., said the reports about employees being kidnapped were false.
13 February The body of Antonio Sebastian Prestamo Rivera (18), a student at el Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey, was found in Xalapa, Veracruz. He had been kidnapped on Friday 6 February at around 4:00pm in Lomas de Angelopolis, Puebla, while driving his 2015 Mercedes Benz. According to newspaper reports, his parents were contacted on a number of occasions by the kidnappers demanding a ransom. The reports stated that he was killed in spite of his parents paying an undisclosed ransom.
19 February A manager and his assistant, employees of Coca Cola, were released after negotiations between representatives for the company and the union Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores de la Educacion de Guerrero (Cetag). The employees had been abducted on 18 February from the Coca Cola site in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. The employees were released after Coca Cola agreed not to press charges against three students who detained and looted company vehicles. On 21 February, Coca Cola announced it was suspending deliveries for security reasons and will not resume operations until they decide conditions are favourable.
23 February In its monthly report for January 2015, El Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Nacional (SNSP), stated that there had been an increase in reported kidnapping incidents countrywide to 110 in January when compared to the 99 reported incidents in December 2014. Over the same two months, the number of extortion incidents registered was 383 in January compared to 382 in December.
24 February El coordinator nacional antisecuestros, Renato Sales Heredia, and la presidenta de la organizacion Alto al Secuestro, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, presented the first report for the year on kidnapping in the country. They said that there were 163 reported kidnapping incidents involving 220 people – 110 recorded by las procuradurias estatales and the remainder by la Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR). The number of incidents by state included: 52 in el Estado de Mexico; 21 in Tamaulipas; 17 in Guerrero; 12 in Mexico DF; 10 in Veracruz; 8 in Tabasco; 5 in Puebla; and four in Hidalgo, Michoacan, Morelos and Tlaxcala. The states that had no reported kidnappings were: Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Colima, San Luis Potosi, Sonora and Yucatan.
AMERICA – CENTRAL
22 February Police arrested two men and two women in connection with the kidnapping of a man who was playing slot machines in Curridabat. The kidnappers demanded of ransom of Colons 8 million (USD15,300) for his release. The kidnapping happened on 20 February. Later that day, a relative of the victim was contacted and a ransom demand was made. The police tracked the ransom payment and made the arrests after the victim was released.
9 February According to figures released by la Fuerza de Tarea contra Secuestros del Ministerio de Gobernacion, there were 124 reported incidents of “auto” kidnapping between 2012 and 2014 in which a member of a family had “arranged” a kidnapping to extort money from the family. In 2012, 18 cases were reported, in 2013 there were 75 and in 2014 there were 31. In the latest incident, Martin Castro was arrested by police in Santa Cruz de Quiche, Quiche, after trying to extort Q100,000 (USD15,000).
12 February The police stated that four members of la Policia Militar del Orden Publico (PMOP) had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping Luis Portillo Betancourth (43), owner of a market stall selling fruit, from the market in Zonal Belen. The victim was forced into a vehicle in spite of trying to resist. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s wife and demanded L120,000 (USD6,300) not to kill him. A son of the victim followed the kidnappers’ vehicle and contacted the police emergency number 911. A police patrol stopped the kidnappers’ vehicle, rescued the victim and arrested the kidnappers.
AMERICA – SOUTH
12 February A Dutch national, whose identity was not revealed, was released by his kidnappers to a delegation comprising members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic Church. The victim had been kidnapped by members of el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) in a rural area of Norte de Santander, in the northeast of the country. The ICRC would not disclose details about the release. In 2014, the ICRC was involved in 19 humanitarian missions to release kidnap victims and 25 cases in 2013. Since 1994, the ICRC has been involved in the release of more than 1500 kidnapping victims in the country.
19 February El Secretario de Gobierno de Norte Santander, Julio Cesar Silva, confirmed that four people, three men and a woman, had been kidnapped near El Carmen. The victims were geologists working for the mining company GEMI S.A.S. They were kidnapped when the vehicle they were travelling in was stopped by a group of armed men. The authorities believe that the guerrilla group, el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), is responsible. On 24 February, a communiqué released by the ELN admitted responsibility for the kidnapping.
23 February Prosecutors said that a kidnapping gang that sold their victims on to the guerrilla group, ELN, had been dismantled. Twelve members of the gang that operated in the north western province of Choco were arrested. The gang is believed to be responsible for at least six kidnappings before handing the victims on to the ELN. It is thought the ELN paid the gang up to USD125,000 per kidnap victim.
28 February Mayor Fredys Palacios of Alto Baudo, Choco, was released by his ELN kidnappers in a jungle area of Choco. He had been kidnapped by the ELN on 17 December 2014 after arriving by boat at a jungle settlement know as La Playa. ELN confirmed his kidnapping in February claiming they had kidnapped him to make him respond to corruption charges.
4 February A spokesman for la Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta announced that a German couple, Robert Natto and Erika Reiser were killed by the EPP. A suitcase was found near their bodies containing laptops which was taken to el Ministerio Publico where it was opened. Inside there was a note written in freehand by Robert Natto to his lawyer in which he says: “28 January 2015. Hello my friend Arnaldo. I am in the hands of the EPP. They want USD200,000, please help me. Robert Natto”. This indicates that the EPP were planning a long term kidnapping similar to that of Arlan and Morinigo.
1 February Freddy Bernal, el president de la Comision Presidencial para la Reorganizacion Policial, admitted kidnapping, extortion and assassination mafias had penetrated the Venezuelan municipal, state and national police forces including the recently created Policia Nacional Bolivariana (PNB) and el Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas (Cicpc). The worst cases are in the police forces in cities and the states close to the Colombian border.
9 February Safwan Aldaas (30) and Maher Elali (28), two businessmen of Syrian origin, were kidnapped while travelling in a vehicle along la avenida Las Delicias de Maracaibo by armed men. Maher Elali was released the same night while Safwan Aldaas was released on 14 February. The local Gaes commander said his unit was investigating the incident but he did not know if the families of the two victims had been contacted by the kidnappers demanding a ransom.