Taxi drivers on a Venezuelan island and popular tourist destination spot have demanded action over a wave of express kidnappings, a crime that has become increasingly common in Latin American cities.
In the first 15 days of July, eight taxi drivers were kidnapped for ransom on Margarita island, according to Jose Luis Isase, head of the transportation union in the surrounding department of Nueva Esparta, reported Globovision. The families of the drivers were forced to pay between around $2,000 or $16,000 for their release, depending on the type of vehicle owned by the driver.
Isase said he was scared some taxi drivers could end up dead if they couldn't pay the high fees demanded, noting that in some cases work companions have had to pool their money to rescue their colleagues.
Taxi drivers met on July 16 to ask the regional government for help in addressing the problem, which is a new phenomenon, according to Isase.
InSight Crime Analysis
Express kidnapping has become a common way for Latin American criminals to make fast cash, with high profile examples including the brief kidnapping of the Mexican ambassador in Caracas in 2012, and the recent murder of a DEA agent in Bogota, Colombia during an express kidnapping gone awry. Extortion of public transport workers, including taxi drivers, is also a major problem in various countries in the region.
According to Venezuelan think-tank INCOSEC, kidnapping rose 60 percent in the country in 2010, and one criminologist reported that Venezuela had the eighth highest kidnapping numbers in the world in 2012, at 1,970. This is just one manifestation of the violent crime that plagues Venezuela, where record homicide numbers were seen in the first trimester of 2013.
In this context of insecurity, Venezuelans have little recourse to state security or justice mechanisms. Though the government has recently taken some measures to combat violent crime, a new rule of law index created by the World Justice Project placed Venezuela's justice system among the most dysfunctional in the world, while a Transparency International survey found that many Venezuelans are forced to pay bribes to police.