AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

6 March La Fiscalia General de Guerrero Estado reported that an investigation had been started into the possible kidnapping of four workers from the mining company, Gold Corp. Three of the workers were named as Juan Carlos Merino Gonzalez, Mauricio Gatica Pena and Juan Carlos Pena. It appears that the men had finished their days work and were driving home when they were kidnapped. On 19 March, La Camara Minera de Mexico confirmed the killing of the three mine workers. A spokesman for the State government said the bodies of the three victims had been found with bullet wounds about one week after the kidnapping but this had not been reported publicly.

7 March According to information released by Mexican federal investigators, fourteen agents attached to the Federal Police were arrested by the army in the Mexican town of Matamoros, on the US border, for running a kidnapping gang that had been targeting Mexican businessmen. The gang had kidnapped a businessman who owns a construction company and hotels in the city and demanded a USD2 million ransom. The family contacted the army as they were preparing to deliver the ransom who then mounted an operation to capture the kidnappers not realising they were federal police officers. Other businessmen were freed during the operation.

9 March According to a report, nearly 40 IT specialists have disappeared in the country since 2008. Many families believe they have been kidnapped by two of the most dominant drug cartels, Los Zetas and Cartel del Golfo. There is a theory that organised crime syndicates are kidnapping the specialists to build and service their secret communications network. No group has claimed responsibility and no ransom demands have been received.

18 March Miguel Angel Mancera, Head of Government in Mexico City, said that during his administration 23 kidnapping gangs comprising of 111 members had been disbanded. He added that extortion had reduced by 40% over the same period. There had been 129 reported kidnapping incidents involving 156 victims of which 90% were successfully resolved.

19 March Figures released by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SNSP), showed that reported kidnapping incidents had reduced by 20%. Statistics from the 30 Procuradurias Generales de Justicia y Fiscalia show that there were 137 reported kidnapping cases involving 176 victims in February compared to 226 kidnapping incidents in January. The most kidnapping cases reported in February were: Estado de Mexico – 30; Tamaulipas – 25; Guerrero – 20; Veracruz – 13; el Distrito Federal - 9. Isabel Miranda de Wallace, President of Alto al Secuestro, said that the organisation’s records showed 163 reported kidnapping cases in February, a reduction of 16% on those for January. 71% of the victims were men aged between 21 and 31 years.

24 March According to combined figures released by el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SNSP), la Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) and el Instituto Nacional de Geografia y Estadistica (INEGI), over the first 27 months of the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto from December 2012 to February 2015, there have been 5,389 reported kidnapping cases an increase of 1,860 cases reported during the final 27 months of the government of President Felipe Calderon. This represents an increase of 52.7%.

30 March The Direction of Immigration Control and Verification began recording cases of kidnapping of Central American migrants in Mexico in 2012 when it recorded 77 cases – 50 Hondurans, 12 Guatemalans and 15 from El Salvador. In 2103 there were 62 cases involving 37 Hondurans, 19 Salvadoreans, five Guatemalans and a Nicaraguan. In 2014 682 cases were recorded involving 365 Hondurans, 200 Salvadoreans, 100 Guatemalans and 17 Nicaraguans.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Honduras

3 March An unnamed Colombian businessman was kidnapped from his residence in San Pedro Sula according to an official spokesman from la Fuerza de Seguridad Interinstitucional Nacional (FUCINA) for the region. Four armed men, dressed in military and police uniforms, kidnapped from his home in Villas del Sol. No further details were provided.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Argentina

5 March The police stated that they were investigating whether a criminal gang from Cordoba was responsible for the kidnapping of Guillermo Altieri, President of the company Victorio Altieri. The incident happened on 26 February in Godoy Cruz, Mendoza, when eight armed men intercepted the victim’s vehicle at 10:00am by staging a crash. The kidnappers contacted the family one hour later and demanded USD250,000 for the victim’s release. The family agreed to pay 3,000,000 pesos (USD340,500) and made the payment at 3:00pm. The family did not report the incident to the police at the time of the incident.

Brazil

4 March Two businessmen working in the auto parts industry in Novo Hamburgo, Sinos Valley, were kidnapped separately within 24 hours of each other. The first victim was kidnapped around 5:00pm on 3 March from his place of work and was released around 1:00pm on 4 March in Sao Leopoldo. The second victim was kidnapped from his home on 3 March and was released at around 2:00pm on 4 March in Fall Valley. The authorities believe the same group may be responsible for both incidents. The State Criminal Investigation Department (Deic) refused to provide details for “strategic and security” reasons.

12 March The Manager of Banco Itau in Caruaru and his wife, mother and two children, who had been held hostage for 24 hours, were rescued by agents from the Pernambuco Civil Police. During the previous night, gunmen had broken into the family home. They tied “explosives” to the Manager who they tried to force to go to the bank and withdraw large amounts of money. However, when the criminals realised the bank would not authorise the withdrawal, they released the Manager and his family. The police discovered that the “explosives” were fakes.

Colombia

6 March Maria Consuelo Jauregui, Director of Pais Libre, presented kidnapping statistics for 2014 that showed there had been a reduction in the number of kidnappings from 299 in 2013 to 288 in 2014. She attributed 34 incidents to las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc) and 31 to el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (Eln), the two guerrilla groups. The Pais Libre figures showed that criminal gangs dedicated to drugs and contract killings were responsible for seven kidnappings and the remaining 216 cases were the work of common criminals. Tolima was the department with the most number of cases, 35, and there were 29 reported cases in Santafe de Bogota.

10 March The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that four geologists kidnapped in mid-February from El Carmen, Norte de Santander, near the Venezuelan border, had been released by their kidnappers, Eln guerrillas. The four victims were handed over to a committee comprising members of the ICRC and the Catholic Church in Norte de Santander.

Venezuela

5 March According to sources among the Portuguese community, at least three Portuguese citizens had been kidnapping victims since January. The same sources also said that at least 12 other Portuguese citizens had been victims of “express kidnapping”. The police followed up the revelations by asking the Portuguese community to report any such incidents to them as they can count on the security forces for assistance.

16 March A journalist who met Jorge Gonzalez, the leader of a gang specialising in kidnapping for ransom in Caracas, wrote an article in which he quotes Gonzalez as saying his gang gives the families of kidnapping victims 72 hours to pay the ransom or the victim is killed. The gang targets the middle classes rather than very wealthy as the latter were likely to have heavily armed body guards and armoured vehicles. Gonzalez added that it does not make economic sense to kidnap foreigners as they do not have Venezuelan bank accounts that can be quickly emptied. According to the journalist, Caracas has been dubbed “the kidnap capital of the world” with about five kidnappings a day.

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