AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

1 November Anti-kidnapping czar, Renato Sales, told a radio station that the three female and five male cyclists who were kidnapped on 30 October while on a training ride, had been released. He explained that a Federal Police unit negotiated with the kidnappers and an unspecified ransom had been paid.

4 November A group of Spanish journalists fled the country after receiving kidnapping threats while working in Chiapas State. The journalists were making a documentary on immigration. Melchor Miralles, leader of the group of six people involved in making the documentary, received a threatening telephone call while in a hotel in Tapachula saying that he would be kidnapped and his family in Madrid was being kept under observation.

7 November Adriana Pineda Fernandez, la titular de la Unidad Especializada de Combate al Secuestro, Morelos State, said that the state Governor will launch an initiative to combat kidnapping that will include the Colombian strategy of prohibiting the payment of ransoms. La Asociacion Alto al Secuestro immediately replied with a letter addressed to Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, Secretario de Gobernacion, in which it listed three points against the initiative:
1. This is not favouring the life of a kidnapped person but is putting it at risk.
2. It is not following the protocol for kidnapping approved by la Federacion.
3. We are not Colombia, we have different circumstances and characteristics, for example, in our country more than half of the economy is informal, and that is to say, there is access to cash.

8 November According to reports, members of the “Guerreros Unidos” gang in Guerrero have admitted to killing all 43 students kidnapped in Iguala shortly after they were handed over to them by the police. Murdering the students was, apparently, the plan of Mayor Jose Luis Abarca because he was concerned they would disrupt a speech he was planning to deliver. He ordered the police to round them up and then hand them over to the violent gang. Gang members have confessed to killing the students, burning their bodies and stuffing the remains in bags that were dumped in a river.

11 November Arturo Sandoval Figon, spokesman for la Fiscalia General de Chihuahua, said that there have been no kidnapping incidents in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, during the last 14 months that reflects the commitment of the State Executive to eradicate this crime. He continued by giving statistics for previous years – in 2010 there were 76 reported incidents; 54 in 2011; 20 in 2012 and 13 in the first eight months of 2013. He added that for the whole of Chihuahua State the figures have been: 190 reported incidents in 2010; 97 in 2011; 53 in 2012; 32 in 2013 and 7 to date in 2014.

11 November During a press conference, Renato Sales Heredia, head of la Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestro (Concase), said that there has been a considerable decrease in kidnapping incidents in Tabasco State. Statistics show that in September only 4 cases were reported and in October only 5 cases whereas in January there were 14 reported cases. He added that the key to this success was the tight cooperation between various agencies including la Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena), la Armada de Mexico, la Policia Federal Preventiva (PFP), el CISEN, la PGR, la PGJ and the local la SSP.

19 November Alto al Secuestro (Association to Stop Kidnapping) said that 194 kidnappings were recorded countrywide in October, an 8.9% increase on the number (178) reported in 2013 for the same month. It added that 71% of the victims are men with the 21-30 years age group being the most targeted. Estado de Mexico had the most incidents (59), followed by Tamaulipas (32), Distrito Federal (23), Guerrero (12), Morelos (11) and Veracruz (11). The figures do not include the 43 students from a teacher training facility who were kidnapped and killed in Iguala, Guerrero, on 26 September. Alto al Secuestro has recorded 5,361 kidnappings between December 2012, when President Enrique Pena Nieto took office, and October 2014. Eleven states make up 84.17% of the total number of incidents for the year so far. They are: Estado de Mexico (1091), Tamaulipas (537), Guerrero (475), Morelos (474), Distrito Federal (374), Veracruz (3120, Michoacán (272), Tabasco (224), Jalisco (116), Oaxaca (97) and Leon (94).

25 November An investigation conducted by French TV channel France 24 indicated that a group of 31 students were abducted by alleged members of the local police in Cocula, Guerrero state, on 7 July 2014 although the disappearances had not been reported. The source for the information refused to reveal her identity but said she is the mother of one of the girls who were abducted. The authorities later admitted the abductions had taken place.

28 November According to figures released by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica (SNSP), countrywide kidnappings and extortion increased in October in comparison to September. There was an increase of 3.13% kidnapping cases from September (96 reported cases) to October (99 reported cases) and an increase in extortion cases of 12% from September (425 reported cases) to October (476 reported cases). SNSP also reported the number of cases up to the end of October as 1,228 reported kidnapping cases and 5,077 extortion cases. The reported number of kidnapping cases by state to date in 2014 is: Tamaulipas (221); Estado de Mexico (145); Veracruz (131); Morelos (105); Michoacán (99); Guerrero (95); Tabasco (87) and Mexico Distrito Federal (48).

29 November Renato Sales Heredia, head of la Coordinacion Nacional Antisecuestros, said that 99 reported kidnapping cases in October was a 36.94% decrease on the number of reported kidnapping cases during the same month in 2013.

USA

11 November Christine Wormuth, the Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, wrote a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, stating that President Obama had ordered a comprehensive review of policy dictating how the US Administration tries to secure the release of Americans held hostage by terrorists abroad. The letter stated that the President had ordered a “comprehensive review of the US Government policy on overseas terrorist related hostage cases, with specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection and diplomatic engagement policies”. The letter did not specifically address whether ransom payments will be part of the assessment. The following week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the US will not change its policy ransom adding that America does not pay them.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Brazil

4 November The Manager and two employees of the Bank of Brazil, were kidnapped by six armed men as they arrived at the branch in Tremendal, Bahia. They were taken in a vehicle and held while the Manager was forced to return to the bank and withdraw money to give to the kidnappers. After he delivered the money to the kidnappers, the three hostages were released.

Colombia

9 November A Medellin Court issued an order for the arrest of Police Sergeant Edison Henry Meluk for allegedly being involved in the kidnapping of Dimas Correa Escarpeta, a banana trader. A further three people, two women and a man, have also been named on the arrest warrant. The victim was kidnapped on 28 March near the airport in Rio Negro, Antioquia,. The kidnappers later called the victim’s family and made a large ransom demand for his release. Escarpeta was rescued from a finca in El Carmen de Viboral, Antioquia, on 15 May.

9 November A statement from el Ejercito Nacional de Colombia said that two soldiers, identified as Cesar Rivera Tapela and Jhonatan Andreas Diaz, were kidnapped by the FARC during a confrontation near Tame in Arauca Department. On 25 November, the two soldiers were released with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and representatives from Norway and Cuba.

16 November General Ruben Dario Alzate (55) was kidnapped along with Corporal Jorge Rodriguez Contreras and lawyer Gloria Urrego, Consultant for Special Military Projects, by members of the 34th Front of the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The General and his party were kidnapped as they disembarked from a boat on a river at Las Mercedes, 15 kilometres from Quibdo, Choco Department, during a visit to an energy project. President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the Peace Talks in Havana, Cuba, until the hostages are released. He added that the general had travelled to the area in a civilian capacity breaking security protocol. This is not the first break in Peace Talks between FARC and the government. In 2002 after 3 years of talks, Senator Jorge Gechem was kidnapped and held captive for 6 years. FARC has said publicly that it has stopped kidnapping for ransom but maintains that military personnel are fair targets in the absence of a ceasefire. In a communiqué on 18 November, the “Ivan Rios”, BIR Bloc of FARC confirmed that it had kidnapped the General. On 19 November, FARC said they would release the General and four others captured during the previous two weeks “as soon as possible” after reaching agreement on liberation terms with the government and guarantor nations Cuba and Norway. The President’s office immediately responded by pledging to resume the Peace Talks as soon as the hostages were released.
On 30 November, FARC released General Alzate and his two companions, Corporal Jorge Rodriguez and Gloria Urrego. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and FARC said that the handover took place in a remote location in Choco province. FARC stated that they had kidnapped the General because they were unhappy that President Santos had continued military operations against them during peace talks. After his release, the General submitted his resignation from the Armed Forces.

26 November According to local media reports, three children were kidnapped in three different municipalities in Cauca department within the last week. In the first case, the parents of a child from Caldono were contacted and asked to pay a ransom of nearly half a million dollars to get their son released. In the second, an 8 year old girl was reportedly kidnapped by two men travelling on a motorbike. The third reported kidnap was of an adolescent boy from an indigenous reservation in the region. A leader of the reservation attributed the kidnapping to FARC saying there have been previous examples of guerrilla groups illegally recruiting minors to join their groups.

Paraguay

13 November The parents of a 17 year old boy said that he had been kidnapped in the early morning while travelling to le Colegio Tecnico in Villarica, Guaira Department. As his parents are separated, the victim lives with his mother in Villarica. The kidnappers contacted the family and initially demanded a ransom of USD5,000 but later increased this to USD200,000.

Venezuela

4 November According to a report by la Guardia Nacional Bolivarana, four gangs dominate kidnapping and extortion in Barinas. The gangs include ex-members of the Colombian guerrilla group las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and some of the members of the gangs have been captured. The number of kidnappings has reduced from 35 in 2010 to 5 to date in 2014. Up to the end of October, the security agencies have frustrated 13 cases of extortion, the same figure for all of 2013. There have been a further 9 reported cases of telephone extortion threats. One of the gangs is “Botas de Caucho” that demands “vacunas” or protection payments from residents in Cruz Paredes. If they do not pay, they kidnap them in the name of FARC. The other three are “los Caucheros”, “los Toyoteros” and “el Valecillo”.

10 November Luisa Ortega Diaz, la Fiscalia General de la Republica, opened a Public Ministry conference addressing the strategy to fight and diminish extortion and kidnapping. The conference was considering initiatives to resolve the problems in the short, medium and long term and to disband organised criminal gangs.

19 November According to a press report, at least six people were kidnapped in Caracas during the previous week. It is expected that kidnapping groups will increase their activities during the last weeks of the year. The victims of the recent incidents include businessmen, owners of companies or their family members. The most recent case was the kidnapping of a Jewish businessman in Los Charros as he drove to Club Herreica at around 5:30pm on Saturday 15 November. After the family reported the incident to Cicpc, their agents assumed responsibility for the negotiations with the kidnappers. The victim was rescued during a police operation on 18 November from a residence on the old Caracas-Los Teques road. Two suspects were arrested including a retired Metropolitan Police officer. The latest kidnapping brought to 173 the number of reported cases in 2014. The majority have been in el Distrito Capital and Miranda State.

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