AMERICA – NORTH
3 February Patricia Bugarin Gutierrez, la coordinadora Nacional Antisecuestros, said during an interview after the signing of an agreement between la Red Nacional de Consejos Ciudadanos and la Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH), that the key to fighting kidnapping is better coordination between the federal and the individual states’ specialist anti-kidnapping units. She added that at the end of 2015, 1,053 cases were reported by las Unidades Estatales Antisecuestro and around 460 extra by la Procuraduria General de la Republica.
8 February Anabel Flores Salazar, a crime reporter on the newspaper El Sol de Orizaba, in Veracruz State, was kidnapped from her home near Orizaba at 2:00am when two armed men wearing military fatigues and claiming to have an arrest warrant forced their way into her home, grabbed her and took her to a waiting vehicle. The victim is the mother of two young children, one 15 days old and the other 2 years old, and is known for writing stories that highlighted the presence of Los Zetas drug cartel in the state. In recent years, Veracruz has been the deadliest state for Mexican media workers with 14 killed since 2011. On 9 February, the victim’s body was found with a plastic grocery bag over her head alongside a road west of Puebla.
14 February According to the annual report compiled by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SESNSP), the reported number of kidnap victims reduced by 29% and extortion by 14.5% in 2015 when compared to 2014. In 2014, there were 1,840 kidnap victims and the number reduced to 1,306 in 2015. In 2015, 5,262 people reported extortion approaches to the authorities compared to 6,155 in 2014. Tamaulipas was the state with the most reported kidnap victims, 327, followed by Estado de Mexico with 187, Veracruz with 116 and Guerrero with 110. In respect of extortion, Jalisco had the most reported incidents with 882 cases, followed by Estado de Mexico with 662 cases, Ciudad de Mexico with 639 and Nuevo Leon with 639.
18 February According to figures released by la Secretaria de Gobernacion (Segob), the number of reported kidnappings in January 2016 was 107, a reduction of 21.32% when compared to the 136 reported kidnappings in January 2015.
22 February Isabel Miranda de Wallace, presidenta de la associacion Alto al Secuestro, challenged the figures concerning kidnappings in January 2016 released by Segob on 18 February. She said Alto al Secuestro had recorded 146 kidnapping incidents involving 225 victims, 39 more cases than Segob. These figures indicated an increase of 3% over the figures for December 2015. She added that Segob did not have an adequate process for compiling statistics.
17 February According to analysts, a kidnapping scam or “virtual kidnapping” is being practised by criminals across the US. Scammers use social media to obtain personal information such as places people visit, names of friends, hobbies and other information to identify targets. Another tactic is for a scammer to be at a bus station or airport and look at the luggage name tag and home address of a traveller. Knowing the traveller will be on an aeroplane or bus and out of telephone range, the scammer uses the information when contacting the family with a false claim of having kidnapped the relative.
AMERICA – SOUTH
2 February Civil Police arrested four men suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of Luan Silva Fernandez (4), son of a dairy farmer, from a farm in the municipality of Colider, 648km from Cuiaba. The victim was kidnapped on 31 January when five armed and hooded men burst into the family farm house. He was held for 20 hours before being released alone on a street in Peixoto de Azevedo, 692km from Cuiaba. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of USD200,000. The victim’s father, Luiz Fernando Fernandes Filho (25) said that the family are staying with relatives as they are afraid to return to the farm after their ordeal.
9 February A 49 year old merchant from Praia Grande was kidnapped while returning to his home in Ocian after dropping an employee at his house at around 2:30am. The hooded kidnappers intercepted his car and locked him in the trunk of their vehicle. He was driven to a wood and forced to call his wife to inform her he had been kidnapped and instruct her to pay a USD10,000 ransom. One of the kidnappers went to the couple’s home and received the ransom money. The victim was then released unharmed.
2 February La Gaula de la Policia confirmed the kidnapping of the wife, two daughters and niece of Carlos Hugo Garcia, alias “Chocolate”, who was extradited to the United States in 2012 and charged with drug trafficking and money laundering. The initial thoughts of the authorities were that the kidnappers were trying to obtain the assets “Chocolate” left in Colombia. He was one of the founders of the money laundering organisation, Nueva Generacion, and was also the head of the money laundering and assassinations office in Cali. He had more than 150 armed men dedicated to settling debts and carrying out selective assassinations under his command.
3 February The Army reported that guerrillas from el Frente Jose Antonio Galan del Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) had attacked an electricity power plant at El Diamente, Segovia, Antioquia, and left cylinders loaded with explosives. During the attack, the guerrillas kidnapped Corporal Jair de Jesus Villar Ortiz, serving with la Brigada 14 de la Septima Division, who was on an intelligence gathering patrol unarmed, wearing civilian clothes and riding a motorcycle. The government and the ELN are in the final phase of closed-door negotiations and will soon decide whether to start peace talks. On 6 February, ELN confirmed it was responsible for kidnapping the Corporal.
5 February According to statistics released by the Defence Ministry, slightly over 200 people were kidnapped in 2015, a drop of 27% compared with 2014. This was the third year in succession that showed a reduction in the number of people kidnapped and compares very favourably with the more than 3,500 recorded in 2000. The Defence Ministry has yet to release more detailed information about the alleged perpetrators of kidnappings but of 63 kidnapping victims that were rescued in 2015, 57 had been kidnapped by common criminals and 6 by neo-paramilitary groups. The number of victims killed while in captivity decreased from 17 in 2014 to three in 2015. In 2015, the authorities reported no civilian kidnappings by either of the two main rebel groups, FARC and ELN.