AMERICA – NORTH

Canada

17 November VICE News obtained information through access to documents that show that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on 7 April, the day before the deadline set for the execution of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel who was being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), to emphasise the Canadian government’s firm policy against paying ransoms. E-mails providing details of the calls between the two leaders show the Prime Minister “expressing his appreciation for efforts to date, stating the threat (of execution) was credible and that we have a firm no-ransom policy”. The Prime Minister had yet to publicly acknowledge that his government was refusing to pay the ASG and it was only after the hostage was killed on 25 April that the Prime Minister publicly emphasised the policy. At the time, some Canadian officials behind the scenes were wondering whether the deadline was firm.

Mexico

12 November It was reported that Mexican football international forward and former player with Chivas, Cesar Romero, had been kidnapped a few days earlier while visiting Chihuahua. Family members said that the kidnappers had contacted them and they hoped to have more information during the next few hours. On 13 November, it was reported on Facebook that the victim had been released by his kidnappers as it was a case of mistaken identity.

12 November Groups of demonstrators burned the municipal palace, the Civil Register offices and a police car in the city of Catemaco, Veracruz State, in protest at the kidnapping of Jose Luis Sanchez, a priest of the 12 Apostles parish in city. The houses of Mayor Jorge Alberto Gonzalez and several businesses in downtown Catemaco were looted. The victim was kidnapped on 10 November. The Catholic Church reported on 13 November that the victim had been released but showed signs of having been tortured.

19 November Guerrero State’s security spokesman said that around 30 armed men kidnapped between 12 and 14 people, including two children, at San Jeronimo, Ajuchitlan del Progreso, Tierra Caliente. It was reported that relatives of some of the victims have received telephone calls from the kidnappers demanding ransoms.

21 November According to ACN, a news agency in Guerrero State, police and soldiers raided the camp of a drugs gang, rescued a kidnapping victim and found body parts in a cooler and the remains of seven bodies in clandestine burial pits. No suspects were arrested. The joint military and police operation had been mounted as a result of a tip off that people were being held at a rural encampment close to a mountain known as Cerro Boludo, near Chilapa.

22 November Various employees of the local Red Cross in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, who asked not to be identified, said a rash of kidnappings had affected local Red Cross clinics which had temporarily stopped providing 24 hour services after cartel gunmen had attempted to kidnap doctors on nightshifts. The medical staff are apparently targeted to provide medical care to suspected criminals in undisclosed locations. Some staff at clinics have stopped wearing medical clothing and doctors have been forced to change their routines and follow various security protocols.

29 November An unnamed 65 year old Michoacan businessman who works in the lumber industry, was rescued by agents from the state’s anti-kidnapping unit from a cave in a remote mountainous area of Coalcoman after being kidnapped on 15 November as he travelled between Coalcoman and Tierras Blancas, Aguililla. The victim was found 150 metres into the cave with his wrists bound with chains. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 19 million pesos (USD920,000), the highest ever demand in the state. The ransom was not paid and two suspects were arrested. The Michoacan Attorney General said that 12 gangs of kidnappers had been dismantled this year and kidnapping had declined by 74% over the same period.

30 November Armed men in a rubber boat approached the offshore vessels Global Explorer and Vikrant Dolphin while they were at the Dos Bocas anchorage off Tabasco. The pirates boarded and took control of the vessels, locked the crews in the citadels and robbed the vessels taking personal belongings, ship’s equipment and other valuables before disembarking and fleeing towards the shore. When the alarm was raised, security teams were despatched to the two vessels and unlocked the citadels to free the crews. There were no reported injuries and no significant damage to the vessels.

USA

18 November Around midday, Sandra Harris (69) was reported missing by her husband who told the police that she had been kidnapped from their home in Kennewick, a town about 200 miles southeast of Seattle, during the morning by a woman. The woman later called the victim’s husband’s mobile telephone and demanded an undisclosed ransom.. Kennewick police issued a statement saying that they and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation had identified a suspect, a 49 year old woman, Theresa Wiltse, who was arrested during the night as she drove away after collecting an undisclosed sum of ransom money. The victim was still missing on 19 November. The police said it was not a random kidnapping and the two women knew each other but were not related. On 21 November, a police report said that Wiltse had acknowledged kidnapping a woman and collecting a USD250,000 ransom. The victim’s body with a gunshot wound was found later on a rural road.

29 November Lapo Elkann (39), grandson of Gianni Agnelli founder of the Fiat motor empire, was arrested in New York after allegedly faking his own kidnapping following a two day drugs and alcohol bender with an escort. He was attempting to get money from his family after running out of cash to buy drugs. Elkann is alleged to have called his family at the weekend and told them he was being held against his will by a person who threatened to harm him if he did not pay USD10,000. A representative of the family arranged to deliver the money but also informed the police who arrested Elkann and the escort when they arrived to collect the money.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Argentina

1 November According to reports, Maria Gabriela Oliveto (50), the wife of a businessman who owns a transport company, was kidnapped the previous day in the early morning from her house in Leones, Cordoba, where she was asleep with her husband and two of her sons. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of one million pesos (USD66,700). She was found at around 2:00am dressed in a nightdress and tied by the hands to a post 54 kilometres along the Pilar road. Travellers were attracted by her cries for help. El director general de Investigaciones Criminales de la Policia de la provincial de Cordoba confirmed that no ransom had been paid.

Brazil

7 November Belarmino de Ascensao Marta (79) who runs the Belarmino Group, one of the largest public transport companies in Brazil, was rescued from a grubby room when armed police stormed a building on a Sao Paulo farm. The victim had been kidnapped on 8 October from a restaurant parking lot off the Anhanguera Highway in Sao Paulo after the victim had stopped for a coffee on his way to one of the bus garages managed by his company. The kidnappers contacted the family and demanded an undisclosed ransom that was not paid. Members of the kidnapping gang, one a disgraced ex-police officer, were known to the victim as they had worked for him as security guards. The Anti-kidnapping squad had been monitoring members of the gang during the kidnapping and arrested two of them as they drove along a Sao Paulo highway. The two arrested men led the police to the farm where the victim was being held.

Colombia

1 November Maria Consuelo Jauregui, directora de La Fundacion Pais Libre, a NGO that has worked for 25 years in the fight against kidnapping, extortion and forced disappearance, said that there had been 121 reported kidnappings during the first seven months of the year. She added that the majority of the incidents had been carried out by common criminals and the two main guerrilla groups, FARC and ELN, had reduced their kidnapping operations. Common criminals were responsible for 109 of the reported cases, el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) 11 cases and the other case was carried out by a band of criminals that had been formed from former para-militaries (known to the authorities as “bacrim”). According to figures released by Pais Libre, there were 210 reported kidnappings in 2015 with common criminals being responsible for 161, ELN – 22, FARC – 15 and “bacrim” – 11. The Pais Libre figures also show that since 1970, 32,733 have been kidnapped in the country. FARC were responsible for 8,991, common criminals 7,368. ELN 7,107 and in 5,280 it was not established who was responsible.

1 November Rosalba Ariza Tierradentro (55), a teacher with la Normal Superior de Florencia, was kidnapped at around 6:00pm by four armed men dressed in military clothing as she was travelling along the Florencia-Caqueta road with several family members. The kidnappers forced her to accompany them and allowed other members of the family to go free. Unofficially, the army and police said that the kidnappers were wearing Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) armbands. On 4 November, Pablo Beltran, Leader of ELN, said on 6AM Hoy por de Hoy on Caracol Radio that ELN had not kidnapped the victim adding that ELN did not have any units in the area where the kidnapping occurred but there were paramilitaries and criminal gangs operating in the area.

8 November El Ministerio de Defensa released a statement saying that there was a rumour in Choco Department that a Russian national had been kidnapped by the guerrilla group el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) and the military and police in the area were investigating. Earlier, El Tiempo newspaper had reported that military intelligence had intercepted a message from a ELN sub group to the comandante of el Frente Cimarron that it had kidnapped a foreign national. One rumour claimed the victim to be a Russian national who was in the country to study venomous frogs whereas another rumour claimed that it was a 42 year old Armenian who lives in Russia and was in the country trafficking in amphibians.

17 November The authorities said they had rescued Judge Benny Osorio, a Los Angeles area judge, who was on vacation and had been kidnapped almost one week earlier. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of USD33,000. An anti-kidnapping unit used intelligence to mount a rescue operation in Cartagena. Four suspects were arrested.

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