AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

1 January It was reported that a 19 year old member of the Haredi Jewish community in Mexico City, whose name was given as only Shlomo, was released by his kidnappers. The victim was kidnapped on 12 November 2015 from his apartment after a security guard had mistakenly allowed the kidnappers into the building. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded a “large” ransom which has not been divulged. The family eventually agreed to pay the ransom and the victim was released on 30 December 2015. After his release, the victim said that the kidnappers had taken good care of him and did not hurt him in any way.

5 January Figures released by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SNSP) showed that from January to November 2015 209 kidnapping incidents and 163 extortion incidents were reported in Tamaulipas State. For the whole of 2014, there were 262 kidnapping and 189 extortion incidents reported in the state.

6 January According to the Citizens Organisation, Semaforo Delictivo, reported kidnappings in Coahuila State increased from 16 in 2014 to 25 in 2015.

9 January Nineteen people were kidnapped by armed men in the village of Arcelia, Guerrero State, on their way to a wedding. Two were killed on the spot. Two days later, the same group kidnapped five teachers, including the director of a secondary school, in Ajuchitlan, close to Arcelia. Seventeen of the victims reappeared on a regional road at around 2:00am on 15 January. Four of the five teachers reappeared the same afternoon but the school director died of an asthma attack on the day he was kidnapped. On 12 January, the kidnappers contacted family members of the kidnapped teachers and demanded 3 million pesos (USD167,000) for the release of each victim. Relatives were given three days to raise the money. Hector Astudillo, Governor of Guerrero State, without providing further details, attributed the releases to an intense search by state police supported by federal forces. A video appeared to show the kidnapping victims sitting blindfolded on the floor while voices informed them they were to be freed because their kidnappers were part of a self-defence group and not a criminal gang. The voices also urged the government to fight against “The Fish”, leader of a separate cartel. The authorities blamed the kidnappings on “Los Tequilleros” described as a splinter group from the “Familia Michoacana” drug cartel.

12 January Two kidnapping for ransom victims escaped from a ranch that had a modified secure house in a sparsely populated area near Tixtla, Guerrero State. The first victim was a business from Eduardo Neri and the second victim a resident of Chilpancingo for who the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 3 million pesos (USD201,600). The wives of the two victims told the police that they had paid ransoms between 500,000 pesos (USD33,600) and one million pesos (USD67,200) but their husbands were not released.

13 January A statement released by Alto al Secuestro reported that kidnapping in the country during 2015 had reduced by 23% compared with 2014. Alto al Secuestro recorded 1,839 incidents in 2015 and 2,395 incidents in 2014. However, the monthly tendency since August was for an increase in incidents. In December 2015 there were 174 recorded kidnapping incidents involving 218 victims which represented an increase of 3% over the figures for November. The States with the highest number of incidents in 2015 were Estado de Mexico, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Distrito Federal, Morelos, Veracruz, Tabasco and Michoacan. The towns with the highest number of incidents were Ecatepec, Acapulco, Cuernavaca, Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl and Victoria. In addition, the statement said that during 2015 there were 2,312 kidnapping victims and 2,150 suspects arrested.

19 January At a national meeting of las Unidades Especializadas contra el Secuestro (UECS), el secretario de Gobernacion, Angel Osorio Chong, who was in the company of Patricia Bugaran Gutierrez, la Coordinadora Nacional Antisecuestro, said that during the first eleven months of 2015, the number of reported kidnappings in the country had reduced by 27% compared to the same period in 2014. He added that the Government of President Enrique Pena Nieto will not be sparing in their efforts to combat the crime of kidnapping and the objective is to reduce kidnappings to zero. He said that the fight will go on using more and better technology.

21 January According to a report released by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SNSP), kidnapping incidents in the country reduced by 27.77% in 2015 when compared to 2014. Tamaulipas was the state with the most reported incidents, 230, followed by Estado de Mexico (163), Veracruz (97), Guerrero (81), Tabasco (78), Distrito Federal (55) and Puebla (33).

28 January Adrian Alarcon Rios, el presidente de la Confederacion Patronal Mexicana (Coparmex), during a meeting of members of Coparmex in Chilpancingo, Guerrero State, that was also attended by Florencio Salazar Adame, el secretario de Gobierno estatal, said businessmen in Chilpancingo were forming their own security force to combat crime. He added that during the first 28 days of 2016, five businessmen had been kidnapped, seven had fled the city and 35 businesses had closed. He also criticised the attitude of the Mayor of Chilpancingo, Marco Antonio Leyva Mena, saying that when the local businessmen raised their concerns about the level of crime, he refused to listen. He said that the Vecino vigilante could not fight crime alone but there was need for a coordinated effort.

USA

15 January The FBI issued an alert for kidnapping scams in the New York area. An example was given of a Saddle Brook man who was called and told his father had been involved in a car accident and was being held. The victim was instructed by the caller to wire USD1,900 by Moneygram to ensure the safe return of his father. The caller then said there had been an error and another USD1,900 needed to be wired via Moneygram. The caller then threatened to kill the man’s father unless a further USD1,900 was sent and yet a further USD1,500 was also sent. The caller also demanded that the victim remain on the telephone against a threat to kill his father. The victim eventually went to his father’s house where the caller said he would be brought, only to discover his father was at home and had not been involved in an accident. All the Moneygrams had been cashed.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Guatemala

2 January Three Bangladeshis and ten Ecuadorians were rescued during a police operation near El Cambote, Huehuetenango. Three suspected kidnappers were arrested. The kidnappers had contacted the victims’ families in New York and demanded USD24,000 for their release. The family of one of the Bangladeshis reported his disappearance to the authorities in New York who alerted the Guatemalan authorities. The police traced the location of the cell phone signal that the kidnappers were using to register their ransom demands. According figures released by La Fiscalia, the number of kidnapping incidents reduced by 65% in 2015 and 21 kidnapping gangs were dismantled. A total of 24 kidnapping victims were rescued and about 100 suspects arrested. Between 2012 and 2015, 99 kidnapping gangs were dismantled and 45 victims rescued.

13 January The police rescued four children from El Salvador aged 4, 9, 10 and 13 years, from a house in San Pedro Ayampuc in the north of Guatemala City, after three days in the country. The four children were travelling without documents to the US when they were kidnapped by two women who contacted the victims’ families in the US and demanded USD100,000 and USD150,000 not to harm the children.

Panama

8 January El Ministerio de Seguridad announced that five people, three Colombians, including a woman, and two Panamanians, had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Cesar Martans, a Panamanian businessman. The victim was kidnapped from Condado del Rey on 5 January when he took his car to a person who was supposed to be interested in buying it. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded an unspecified sum of money for his release. The police traced the location to el Corredor Sur from where the calls were being made and mounted a rescue operation. The police are continuing to look for other suspects. No further details about the incident were given but El Ministerio said that there were three reported kidnappings of a high profile in the country during 2015.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Bolivia

9 January According to his lawyer, Marco Camara Rodriguez, owner of Katanas Night Club, reappeared after reportedly having been kidnapped three days earlier at Viacha, La Paz. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of USD100,000 for his release. The police said they did not have any information about the kidnapping.

Brazil

19 January A 48 year old unnamed women was kidnapped from her home in Estancia Pocos de Caldas, Menas Gerais, when men arrived looking for her husband on the pretext of fixing his motorcycle. When she said he was not at home, two men dragged her out of the house. The incident was witnessed by her son who informed the police. She was held in a forest in a rural zone of the municipality. The Department Of Special Operations Civilian Police (Deoesp) investigated the disappearance, interviewed witnesses and identified two suspicious cars. The police followed one of the cars and identified two suspects who they arrested on 28 January. From information obtained, the Deoesp located the whereabouts of the victim and mounted a successful rescue operation on 29 January. During the victim’s captivity, the kidnappers contacted the family more than 10 times and demanded a ransom of USD800,000 that was never paid.

Colombia

9 January Jhonatan Jesus Chica Landazabal (28), the son of a Ibague businessman with a mental age of 14 years, was rescued by members of la Gaula de Policia del Tolima after being held for 17 days. He was kidnapped from a spa in Ibague on 23 December. The kidnappers contacted his family and demanded 3000 million pesos (USD1,186,700) that was later reduced to 2000 million pesos (USD791,100).

14 January Rigoberto Realpe Mopan, a cousin of the Mayor of Rosas, was kidnapped by unidentified armed men when they stopped the construction company vehicle he was driving in company with an engineer along la via Panamericana near Siberia, Cauca department. The engineer was let go shortly after the incident. It is thought guerrillas may be responsible but no group has claimed responsibility.

16 January Teniente Coronel Jaime Guia Ochoa, comandante del Batallon de Selva #48, confirmed that 17 people, among them 2 minors, had been kidnapped while fishing in the Simoa marshes, south Bolivar. He added that guerrillas from el frente “Jose Solano” of el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) were suspected of being responsible. The kidnapping occurred near Morales which is 400 kilometres north of Bogota. The fishermen were rescued on 17 January at 4:00am in an operation mounted by 200 members of the special forces supported by six helicopters. Twelve members of ELN fled on hearing the approach of the rescue force.

26 January Noticias RCN showed a 59 second video of Ramon Jose Cabrales, alto consejero de la Gobernacion de Norte Santander para la provincial de Ocana, who was kidnapped on 3 September 2015 when he was leaving from the family finca in a rural area of Ocana, Norte de Santander. The guerrilla group, Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping. In the video, which is the first Proof of Life (POL) that the family have received, the victim addresses his father, mother, brothers, wife Meliza, children Sarita (9) and Manual Jose (3), and states that they can see he is well. Less than two weeks earlier, the kidnappers had made an unspecified ransom demand to the family for the victim’s release. The indication was of a very large sum of money that the family could not possible raise.

31 January Orlando Triana Andrade (47), a farmer, was rescued in a joint operation mounted by el Gaula Militar de Tolima, la Sexta Brigada and el Cuerpo Tecnico de Investigaciones (CTI). The victim was kidnapped by two common criminals from a finca near Coyaima, Tolima, at around 11:00am on 28 January. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of 40 million pesos (USD16,000). The security forces investigated the kidnapping, located the place where the victim was being held and mounted a rescue operation. The delinquents fled the scene in a vehicle.

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