AMERICA – NORTH

Mexico

4 October According to Alto al Secuestro, the average number of kidnapping incidents per month in the country this year has been 181 and only in August was the number, 151, less than the previous month. From December 2012 to August 2016, a total of 1,977 cases have been recorded. The states with the most recorded number of cases in August were: Estado de Mexico (39); Veracruz (24); Tamaulipas (14); Guerrero (11). The two municipalities that have recorded the most number of cases are Ecatepec, Estado de Mexico, followed by Acapulco. In Ecatepec the kidnapping gangs are not organised criminal groups but common delinquents. They target people working in the informal economy and ransom demands are small. In Acapulco, the kidnapping gangs are well organised and structured so the victim never knows the negotiator.

5 October Federal police said they had arrested two alleged members of a kidnapping gang, one said to be the leader that employed women to lure victims over the internet, held them for ransom and then killed them even though a ransom was paid. The chief police investigator said the gang operated in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz State, and added that a woman who was arrested was one of those who enticed victims into meeting her at places where the victims were held pending a ransom payment. Up to twelve kidnappings have been linked to the gang. The gang members were arrested as a result of an investigation that had been ongoing after a kidnapping on 2 June.

10 October La Fiscalia del Estado de Puebla released documents showing that over the period 2011-2015, 191 people were kidnapped in the state and, of these, 22 were killed in captivity. The victims were women, youths and adults from 12 towns – Puebla, Tehuacan, Atzitzintla, Atlixco, Chalchihuapan, Tepeaca, Guadalupe, Victoria, Tecali, Amozoc, Canada Morelos, Zaragoza and Xicotepec. The documents revealed that none of the fatalities occurred during rescue operation by the police. Annual figures showed 63 cases in 2011; 29 in 2012; 33 in 2013; 33 in 2014; and 33 in 2015. From January to August 2016, 22 cases have been reported.

12 October Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, head of la Secretaria de Gobernacion, speaking at the Sixth International Congress on the fight against Kidnapping and Extortion held in Jojutla, Morelos, emphasised that kidnapping incidents had reduced by 25% between 2012 and 2015. He said this was due to the establishment of state units to fight the crime. Representatives from 35 countries and the 32 states of Mexico were in attendance.

17 October Six men and a woman aged between 24 and 44 years were kidnapped at various points in the Guadalajara area. On 18 October, the victims were found alive in the municipality of Tlaquepaque. Six of the victims had had their hands cut off and there was a warning note pinned to the seventh that said: “This is what happens to scoundrels” and signed “sincerely, the Anti-Rat Group”. Authorities in Jalisco State believe the mutilations were related to unpaid drug debts or a settling of scores within a criminal gang.

19 October According to la Secretaria de Gobernacion (Segob), between January and September 2016 federal and state agencies carried out 1,102 investigations into kidnapping incidents. This represents a decrease of 2.13% on the 1,126 investigations over the same period in 2015. In September 2016, 84 investigations were conducted by state agencies and 44 by la Procuraduria de la Republica. There were 142 kidnapping victims in the 128 cases that were investigated.

21 October Miranda de Wallace, Alto al Secuestro, said that new data revealed that there had been an increase in kidnapping in September in the states of Veracruz, Tabasco, Morelos, Zacatecas and Puebla. There were 37 reported kidnappings in Veracruz, 10 in Tabasco, nine in Morelos and eight in both Zacatecas and Puebla. Alto al Secuestro’s figures contradicted those released by Segob.

21 October During a meeting with Ciro Gomez Leyva of Grupo Formula, Patricia Bugarin, la coordinadora nacional Antisecuestros de la Secretaria de Gobernacion, said that according to figures released by el Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad the number of kidnappings has tended generally to reduce. However, the figures up to September 2016 show a slight increase on the same period last year. Over this period in 2016 there have been 794 reported cases countrywide which is 13 more compared to the same period last year.

23 October La Fiscalia General del Estado de Tabasco in conjunction with la Policia Federal arrested seventeen people said to be members of four kidnapping gangs and rescued 15 kidnapping victims during operations in October. Among the rescued victims were 12 Honduran migrants who were being held in a kidnappers’ safe house in la colonia Emiliano Zapata, Cardenas.

23 October According to figures released by la Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Estatal, reported kidnapping incidents in Tijuana city have increased from 2015 to 2016. During the whole of 2016, there were nine reported cases whereas up to September 2016, eleven cases have been reported.

30 October In an interview with El Universal, Adriana Pineda Fernandez, head of la Unidad Especializada Contra la Extorsion (UECS) de Morelos, said that since the formation of UECS, kidnapping cases in the state had reduced from 19 per month to 3 per month. She explained that during the past three years there had been 344 reported kidnapping incidents, 630 suspects had been arrested and 340 kidnappers sentenced. She added that kidnapping gangs operating in the state included “Los Rojos”, “Guerreros Unidos” and “La Familia Michoacan” who had crossed the border. The annual figures were: 150 reported kidnappings and 199 suspects arrested in 2013; 128 reported cases and 245 suspects arrested in 2014; 32 reported cases and 126 suspects arrested in 2015; to date in 2016 there have been 34 reported cases and 60 suspects arrested.

USA

7 October Cases of “virtual kidnapping”, where scammers contact parents claiming to have kidnapped one of their children, have been reported over the past two months in Virginia, California, Texas, Arizona, and other states. As a result, schools across the US are warning parents about this scam. In many cases, parents receive a call from a stranger claiming to have kidnapped their child and can provide the child’s name or other details. Some parents have reported hearing screams or a muffled cry in the background. According to the FBI’s New York field office, ransom demands range from between USD600 and USD1,900.

AMERICA – CENTRAL

Honduras

16 October During an operation mounted by units from la Direccion Policial de Investigacioes (DPI) in Buenos Aires, La Ceiba, Atlantida, four suspects were arrested in connection with the kidnapping a few days earlier of Elias Daniel Murra Luna, a pilot. According to the DPI, a large sum of millions of lempiras (1 USD = 23.09 Lempiras) had been demanded for the release of the victim. The operation to rescue the victim took place before any ransom payment was made.

Panama

21 October Two Panamanian nationals were charged with planning the kidnapping for ransom of two businessmen of Asian origin. The suspects arranged a meeting with the businessmen on the pretext of supplying goods. At the meeting in Albrook, on the bank of the Panama Canal, the businessmen were kidnapped. The two suspects contacted the victims’ families and demanded a ransom of USD500,000 for their release against a threat to kill them if the money was not paid. A ransom of USD90,000 was agreed and the kidnappers directed the drop team to a number of points in Panama City before directing the team to a point 72 miles west of Panama City where they instructed the money in a bag be left under a bridge. After a police investigation, the two suspects were arrested on 19 October.

AMERICA – SOUTH

Argentina

4 October After an investigation that commenced in February, the police arrested 20 members of a gang dedicated to “secuestro virtual” in Buenos Aires. A series of simultaneous raids were carried out by the police in the barrios of Boedo, Monte Castro, Linieres, Caballito, Nueva Pompeya, Floresta, Santa Rita and Villa de Parque. The investigation started on 23 February after a “secuestro virtual” was reported in la Comisarida #26, Buenos Aires. After several months of listening in to telephone calls and gathering intelligence, it was estimated that there had been another 18 kidnapping incidents carried out by the gang. The gang used to contact a family claiming to have kidnapped a member of that family and demanding money for their release. During telephone calls, another member of the gang would act as the “kidnapped” family member and could be heard crying and pleading in the background.

Bolivia

3 October Abel David (26), an Ecuadorian businessman from Guayaquil, related his experience of being kidnapped while visiting Santa Cruz. He had travelled to Bolivia to attend a twelve day business conference on 13 September and decided to extend his visit for five days of holiday at the suggestion of some Bolivians. He went to a holiday location where he discovered he was the only guest. This made him feel uncomfortable so he sent a WhatsApp message to a cousin in Guayaquil with a map. He was confronted by armed men who questioned him about his family abroad and said they would demand a ransom for his release. The kidnappers made him contact his mother who lives in Spain to demand Euros 40,000 (USD44,000) for his release. His family contacted la Unidad Antisecuestros y Extorsion de la Policia Nacional (Unase) in Ecuador who, in turn, worked with el Grupo de Investigacion de Casos Especiales (GICE) de Bolivia. The GICE tracked down the kidnappers in Santa Cruz, rescued the victim and arrested six kidnappers during the afternoon of 28 September.

Brazil

5 October The police reported that the Manager of Bradesco Bank in the Vila Airport neighbourhood of Campinas, Sao Paulo, was kidnapped along with his wife and son for about 12 hours before being released late in the morning. The victims were kidnapped during the evening of 4 October and taken to the slum neighbourhood of Eldorado dos Carajas. The Bank Manager was sent to the bank to collect money while his wife and son were held by the kidnappers. However, the kidnappers decided to cancel their operation and released the Bank Manager’s wife and son before fleeing. No money was handed to the kidnappers and no suspects have been arrested yet. Bradesco Bank refused to comment about the incident.

15 October Data released by State Social Defence Secretariat showed that kidnapping for ransom cases in Belo Horizonte had increased from 23 cases during the period January to August 2015 to 32 cases over the same period in 2016, an increase of 39%. The annual figures for Belo Horizonte since 2012 are: 2012 (49); 2013 (47); 2014 (42); 2015 (23); 2016 (32).

16 October At around 3:00pm, three armed and hooded bandits entered the house in the Boa Vista II area of Resende of an employee of Bradesco Bank where the man’s seven months pregnant wife was alone. They waited until her husband returned and then one bandit took the wife away and two bandits held the employee at home. The following day they ordered the employee to go to the bank and withdraw an undisclosed amount of money from the vault against a threat to harm his wife. On 17 October, the employee went to the bank in the morning and waited until mid afternoon before taking the money from the vault which he then delivered to one of the bandits who was waiting at a prearranged location. The employee returned to the bank and informed the manager what had happened who reported the matter to the police. Early in the evening of 17 October, the bandits put the employee’s wife in a taxi and released her. The police would not divulge further details while their investigation was ongoing. .

Colombia

6 October The second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), released Fabio Leon Adilla, a former Mayor of Charala (2012-2015) in northeastern Colombia, to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the city of Saravena near the Venezuelan border. The victim was kidnapped on 30 June while on a business trip to Saravena. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the release and said it brought the government and ELN closer to initiating peace talks that were announced in March but had been frozen due to the government’s insistence that ELN release all its hostages. A source close to ELN said that the release was negotiated during talks between ELN leaders and government officials in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. This was the 13th rebel-held hostage release that the ICRC has facilitated in 2016.

10 October The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that the ELN had handed over a civilian kidnapping victim, identified by the Catholic Church as Nelson Alarcon, in a remote area of Arauca Department near the Venezuelan border. He had been kidnapped three months earlier. This was the third hostage release by ELN in the past two weeks. ELN is still believed to be holding at least one hostage, former congressman Odin Sanchez who swapped himself in April for his kidnapped brother who had become ill after being held for three years.

14 October Agents from the CTI and Military Gaula rescued Milton Alonso Lopez (40), a liqueur trader, from the finca where he was being held. The victim had been kidnapped on 12 October at Rozo, Palmira, Valle Department, while he was travelling to Yumbo. The kidnappers contacted his family and demanded a ransom of 2000 million pesos (USD685,900). When he was rescued the victim’s legs were tied and mouth gagged.

18 October Colonel Fernando Murillo, el titular de la Direccion Antisecuestro y Antiextorsion de la Policia Nacional de Colombia, said that in 2000 there were 3,572 reported kidnappings and this had been reduced dramatically to 148 to date in 2016. He explained that this was due to 20 years experience by the specialist units, Grupos de Accion Unificada contra el Secuestro y la Extorsion (Gaula). Colombia is now using the practical experience gained to help other countries, such as Mexico, that suffer from kidnapping.

25 October The second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), accused the government of “torpedoing” peace talks that were due to start on 27 October in Quito, Ecuador. The ELN was reacting to a demand by government negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo for the release of a man held hostage by the group. He said the talks would not start if the hostage was not released.

27 October Following a meeting with prominent opponents of a peace deal that was rejected by voters in a referendum on 2 October, the largest guerrilla group in the country, FARC, promised to internally investigate the fate of some 500 people who were kidnapped by the group but are still unaccounted for. During talks in Cuba, the FARC leadership had agreed to ask each of the approximately 50 front commanders to clarify the fate of the victims. It is expected there will be a preliminary response within a week.

27 October Humberto Jose Nunez Serpa (31), son of the owner of one of the largest hardware stores in Maicao, La Guajira, was kidnapped at around 4:00pm by two armed men who forced the victim at gunpoint to accompany them. The incident took place near the border with Venezuela.

31 October A member of the National Liberation Army (ELN) Peace Negotiating Team. Pablo Beltran, said that the group has the right to “deprive liberty” from people meaning the group claims kidnapping is their legal right. The comment came as the Government suspended Peace Talks until ELN release Odin Sanchez and other hostages.

Ecuador

24 October Agents from la Policia, las FF.AA and Fiscalia mounted a joint operation to rescue a senior employee of Petroamazonas who had been kidnapped in La Union, Orellana province. Four members of the local community were arrested. The community had demanded a ransom for the release of the victim which, they claimed, was compensation to the community.

Paraguay

14 October During a press conference, the nephew of Felix Arturo Urbieta (64), a rancher, who was kidnapped from his finca, “San Francisco”, Belen Cue near Horqueta, Concepcion Department, at about 7:30pm on 12 October, called on the kidnappers to make contact with the victim’s family to start negotiations. The victim is said to suffer from diabetes and hypertension that need special medication. The kidnappers left a message at the time of the kidnapping demanding a ransom of USD500,00. They also left two cellular telephones for use in communications between them and the family but there has not been any contact. It is thought the kidnappers belong to a new gang led by the son of Alejandro Ramos, an ex-member of el Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP). This kidnapping brings to four the number of victims that are being held in the region, The other three are: Police Officer Edelio Morinigo, held for 832 days, Maronite settlers Abrahan Fehr, held for 433 days, and Franz Wiebe, held for 79 days. On 15 October, the victim’s family confirmed that one of the kidnappers was Alendro Antonio Ramos Ramirez (17), son of Alejandro Ramos Morel and Lourdes Bernarda Ramirez de Ramos, former members of EPP, although the victim’s nephew later denied this.

Peru

8 October A policeman working with la Policia de Carretaras de las Organos, in Talara, was arrested when he was transporting Chinese businessman, Chen Jianxiong (43), in his personal car. Another policeman travelling with him escaped. Chen Jianxiong, who has business in Ecuador, was kidnapped on 30 September. The authorities in Ecuador contacted the Peruvian authorities and informed them of the kidnapping. According to Peruvian police sources, the kidnappers had planned to take their victim to Piura in order to make calls from that area to the victim’s family demanding a ransom for his release.

Venezuela

18 October Nestor Reverol, el Ministro para Relaciones Interiores, Justicia y Paz, said that during an operation conducted by agents from la Operacion de Liberacion y Proteccion del Pueblo (OLP), five members of “El Arsenal”, a gang dedicated to kidnapping for ransom in Barlovento, Miranda State, were wounded after an exchange of fire before being arrested in a safe house that was being used as the gang’s control centre..

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