AMERICA – NORTH
3 January The bodies of Jazmin Martinez Sanchez, a former reporter with Televisa Tepic, and her husband, Alejandro Ramirez, were found near the Tepic-Guadalajara autopista. The couple had been kidnapped on 31 December while driving to Guadalajara to celebrate the New Year. Their car had broken down and several men pretended to try to assist before kidnapping the couple. The kidnappers contacted their families and demanded a ransom of 2 million pesos (USD136,150). However, during the negotiations the kidnappers decided to kill the couple to avoid being recognised.
7 January Thirteen police officers were detained for 30 days in Veracruz State in connection with the kidnapping of Moises Sanchez (49), editor of Medellin newspaper, “La Union”. The victim was snatched from his home on 2 January. Sanchez is known for his stories about the drug related violence in Medellin. Veracruz is the most dangerous state in the country for journalists. At least 15 have been killed and four others have disappeared since 2000 according to London based Article 19. According to Reporters Without Borders, 81 journalists were killed in Mexico between 2000 and September 2014 making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The decapitated body of the victim was found a few weeks later. The main suspect, Clemente Noe Rodriguez Martinez, a former local police officer, reportedly told investigators that he and a group of former policemen kidnapped the journalist and killed him the same day he went missing. He claimed that he was given orders by Deputy Police Chief Martin Lopez Meneses, who in turn issued the order under the instruction of Omar Cruz Reyes, Mayor of Medellin, Veracruz.
8 January More than ten municipal policemen from Valle de Mexicali were reported as having kidnapped a rancher, identified only as Jorge “N”, his son, a young nephew and an employee. According to members of the family, the policemen contacted a brother of Jorge and made a ransom demand of USD35,000 for the release of the four victims who were held for more than five hours. The victims were in a sparsely populated area when they were stopped by the armed patrol for no apparent reason. Jorge’s sister in law took the ransom money to a service station where she met with members of the police who were driving Jorge’s vehicle and had brought the two youngest victims with them. Jorge and the other victim escaped while the police were collecting the ransom money.
12 January According to el Informe de Victimas de Homicidio, Secuestro y Extorsion 2014, a report released by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SESNSP), the number of kidnapping victims in Guerrero State doubled from the six victims in October to 13 victims in November. There were 120 reported cases in Guerrero between 1 January and 30 November 2014. Over the same period there were 156 reported extortion cases.
13 January Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, el comisionado para la Seguridad y el Desarrollo Integral en Michoacan, announced a reduction in kidnapping and extortion cases. He said that in 2013 there had been 194 reported cases of kidnapping whereas during the second six months of 2014, only 13 cases were reported.
14 January Jose Luis Abarca, former mayor of Iguala city, was charged with the kidnapping of 43 students who are feared to have been killed. The students were allegedly abducted by police working with a local drug gang on the night of 26 September 2014. Abarca was already facing charges of links to organised crime as well as involvement in kidnapping cases.
16 January Agustin Sergio Deleon Garza (36), a Mexican citizen living in San Antonio, USA, was convicted for his involvement in the kidnapping of an unnamed Mexican businessman in December 2013. The businessman was kidnapped from his home in Mexico by several men. Deleon Garza allegedly made several telephone calls from Bexar County to the victim’s family demanding a ransom payment. The victim was released in January 2014 after the payment of USD75,000.
20 January Renato Sales Heredia, head of la Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestro (CONASE), de la Secretaria de Gobernacion (Segob), said that countrywide reported kidnappings in 2014 had decreased by 17.9% when compared to the number in 2013. In 2013 between January and December, 1,698 kidnappings incidents were reported whereas over the same period in 2014, 1,394 kidnapping incidents were reported. In addition, in December 2013, 123 kidnapping incidents were reported whereas in December 2014, 83 incidents were reported. He added that the majority of kidnapping victims are released alive but 2.5% are killed even after a ransom has been paid. Mexico’s national statistics institute estimates more than 90% of kidnapping cases are never reported.
22 January Fernando Valenzuela Pernas, el Fiscal General de Tabasco, quoted figures released by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, that said there were 100 reported kidnapping cases in Tabasco during 2014, a decrease from the 104 reported cases in 2013. This places Tabasco among the top ten states for kidnapping. He added that 200 people had been investigated for possibly being involved in kidnapping.
23 January Jorge Lopez Perez, head of Tlaxcala’s state police, was arrested on kidnapping charges. Local prosecutors accuse the arrested policeman of heading a ring of police officers who carried out at least four recent “express” kidnappings that involved victims being held for a few hours or days and released in exchange for relatively small ransom payments. Eight subordinate police officers have also been arrested. According to federal statistics, there were only seven reported kidnapping incidents in Tlaxcala State in 2014.
24 January The Mexican authorities confirmed that drug cartel gunmen had kidnapped Jose Guadalupe Rivera Martinez, dean in charge of the Reynosa campus for la Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas (UAT), on 26 December 2013. His fate remains unknown.
27 January At a press conference the President of Alto al Secuestro, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, gave details of the countrywide statistics that had been collected by the organisation. She said that between 1 December 2012 and 31 December 2014, there had been 5,710 kidnapping incidents. She added that in 2014 there were 2,818 reported cases compared with 2,166 cases in 2013. The states with the most reported cases in 2014 were: Estado de Mexico (1,163), Tamaulipas (586), Guerrero (499), Morelos (495) and Distrito Federal (406). The age groups of kidnapping victims were: 25% aged 21 – 30 years; 20% aged 31-40 years; 17% aged 11-20 years.
29 January According to a news release, a group of state and federal security forces rescued four kidnap victims on 26 January near the town of Diaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas. Three adults and a child were rescued after a Tamaulipas Coordination Group patrol was attacked by unknown cartel gunmen who were travelling in three vehicles. After an exchange of fire, the patrol arrested one man while the others fled the scene in their vehicles.
10 January The US State Department cautioned its citizens in the Philippines against travel to parts of Mindanao due to the threat from the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a group linked to al Qaeda, noting that Abu Sayyaf and JI have cells in Southeast Asia. The statement said: “There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao”. The statement added: “Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against US, Western and coalition partners’ interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Asia”.
13 January The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York City Police Department (NYPD) warned New York residents of a scam during which an individual calls a family and claims to be holding a family member hostage. In some calls, a person can be heard screaming in the background. The caller then instructs the family member to stay on the line until he or she has made a ransom payment by wire transfer often to a third party in Puerto Rico. Ransom amounts vary between USD600 and USD1900. Sometimes, once a payment has been made, the caller will claim the payment has not been received and demands an additional payment. The FBI and NYPD stated that more than 100 New Yorkers have paid cash in this kidnapping scam which is known as “Virtual Kidnapping”.
16 January Australian golfer, Robert Allenby, claimed that he was kidnapped, robbed and left beaten on the side of the road after a night out in Honolulu. He had gone to the Amuse Wine Bar with a friend and his caddie. He said he left the bar after being separated from his two companions and was attacked outside. He was dumped from a car about six miles from the bar. A number of people subsequently came forward to dispute his version of events.
AMERICA – CENTRAL
7 January Keren Dunaway Gonzalez (18), an Aids activist, was released in la colonia Santa Marta, San Pedro Sula, by her kidnappers eight hours after being kidnapped in the city. Ms. Dunaway and her mother, Rosa Gonzalez, were kidnapped by three gunmen while sitting in a parked car outside the offices of Laves, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) they both run that fights for the rights of people with HIV/Aids. Shortly after the kidnapping, her mother was released a few blocks away. Police said the kidnappers had contacted the family on three occasions demanding a ransom. Her mother had appeared on TV stressing that the NGO was a non-profit organisation and the family had no money. Ms. Dunaway’s father died a long time ago. A police spokesman said the kidnappers released their hostage as a result of police pressure.
AMERICA – SOUTH
21 January The Commandant of Police for Cochabamba, Walter Valda, announced at a press conference that two Brazilians had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of a family in Cochabamba. One of the kidnappers was arrested when collecting the ransom money of USD7,000. The second kidnapper was arrested in a police follow up operation.
7 January The National Police warned citizens to be aware of “Virtual Kidnapping” attempts by criminals when they call, usually to a cell phone, pretending to have kidnapped a member of the family and demanding an immediate payment for the “victim’s” release. The warning included advice on how to avoid such calls and also how to handle one should it occur.
8 January The Court in Medellin, Antioquia, ordered Carlos Andres Uribe Perez to be detained in prison for allegedly participating in the kidnapping of an unnamed 65 year old woman. The victim was kidnapped on 26 December 2014 by two armed men from a school in Las Victorias, Barbosa, Antioquia. She was forced into her own car and driven towards La Montera, Don Matias, Antioquia. Later, the kidnappers were making the victim walk to a remote hideout but were seen by residents of the area who confronted them allowing the victim to escape. According to the investigation by La Fiscalia, the kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of Col$500 million (USD208,300) before reducing the demand firstly to Col$200 million (USD83,300) and then Col$5 million (USD20,800).
28 January El General Fausto Tamayo, Commander of la Policia Nacional, reported that during the week long Operation “Eslabon VIII” carried out jointly by units from Dinased and Unase in the cities of Quito, Guayaquil and Santo Domingo de los Tsachillas, six “secuestro expres” gangs were dismantled. The investigation prior to the operation had lasted three months during which time 120 denuncias by victims of the gangs were received and followed up.
28 January Robert Natto (60) and his wife, Erika Reiser (53), a German couple, were kidnapped by four members of the terrorist group, EPP, from their property, “Luisa Ganadera”, Yby Yau, in the north of the country. On 29 January the Minister of the Interior confirmed that the two victims had been killed during an exchange of fire between the kidnappers and government forces. It is understood that the EPP had demanded USD200,000 as protection money from the couple to allow them to continue operating their business.
6 January Manuel Tangir, Security Director of Baruta, one of the five counties that make up Caracas, warned citizens that kidnappings in the metropolitan area of the capital are likely to increase for the foreseeable future. He stressed the need to take preventative measures and to report suspicious situations to the police. Many Portuguese citizens live in the county and have set up businesses there. He added that the authorities are aware of three to four gangs comprising of four to six people each that operate in the area. Although there are no official figures released about the number of kidnappings, during 2014 at least 30 people of Portuguese descent were the victims of some kind of kidnapping especially “express” or “short term” kidnapping.
7 January Two former police officers, Gregory Rodriguez Molina (35), from la Policia Metropolitana, and Juan Castillo Celis (29), from la Policia de Chacao, were accused by el Ministerio Publico of being involved in the kidnapping of a Jewish businessman as he was going to church with his wife. The incident happened on 15 November 2014 in Los Chorros, Sucre, Miranda State. The couple were kidnapped by several armed men who drove off with them before releasing the wife so she could raise the ransom money. After two days of investigations, the police rescued the businessman from a house on the old Caracas-Los Teques road. Castillo Celis used to be employed as a bodyguard by the couple.