HomeNewsBriefRise of 'Express' Kidnappings Sign of Colombia's Criminal Evolution
BRIEF

Rise of 'Express' Kidnappings Sign of Colombia's Criminal Evolution

COLOMBIA / 25 MAR 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

While Colombia registered a drop in kidnappings in 2013, an uptick in "express" kidnappings remains obscured by the statistics, and reflects a major shift in the country's crime dynamic.

Among 45 kidnappings committed in 2014 and 299 registered in 2013 by Colombia's Defense Ministry, a pattern can be seen of short captivity periods in which the perpetrators demand relatively small sums of money, reported El Colombiano. General Humberto Guatibonza, commander of the GAULA anti-kidnapping unit of the police, said both common criminals and guerrillas were increasingly resorting to "express kidnapping" methods.

In February, El Tiempo reported there had been 16 cases of this form of kidnapping in 2014, particularly concentrated in the departments of Tolima, Arauca, Huila and Cundinamarca, and in the country's Coffee Region. Victims were held for just hours, and their families paid between $2,500 and $5,000 for their release.

According to official figures, the bulk of 2013 kidnappings were committed by common criminals, followed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Maria Consuelo Jauregui, director of NGO Fundacion Pais Libre, expressed concern over an increase in kidnappings by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the oil rich Arauca department bordering Venezuela in 2013, reported El Colombiano.

InSight Crime Analysis

Kidnapping numbers have dropped dramatically in Colombia in the past decade, from 2,123 in 2003 to 305 by 2012. The fall is reflective of the country's shifting conflict dynamics and criminal landscape, which has seen a rise in small criminal groups dedicated to extracting local profits through micro-trafficking, micro-extortion and kidnapping.

Where guerrillas were once the principal perpetrators of the crime, their involvement has been diminished in part by security forces initiatives. Kidnapping has also become politically harmful for the FARC, who promised to halt the crime during peace talks in 2012. While it is clear this has not been fully respected, with a case last year indicating they were sharing victims with the ELN -- who have made no such promise -- it is now low-level criminals responsible for much of the trade.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Kidnapping

This is seen in the shift towards express kidnappings, which can be as quick and simple as what is known as a "paseo millonario" (millionaires ride), in which perpetrators jump into a taxi and force the passenger under threat of violence to go to the nearest ATM and withdraw money from their account. The case of a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent murdered last year in Bogota during such an express kidnapping highlighted this modality.

Because express kidnappings blur the lines between robberies and traditional kidnappings -- carried out over long periods to raise significant sums, or motivated by non-monetary demands -- the extent of the crime is not reflected in official statistics, meaning Colombia's kidnapping numbers fail to reveal the true scope of the crime.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 19 APR 2018

With concerns mounting over the aftermath of Colombia's peace deal with the FARC rebels, Ecuador's government has announced it will…

COLOMBIA / 22 MAR 2011

New evidence has emerged linking Colombian “emerald czar” Victor Carranza to paramilitary groups, but it is unlikely to…

COLOMBIA / 9 AUG 2011

The strategic Colombian peninsula of La Guajira, a sought after departure point for drugs heading across the Caribbean, may be…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…