Venezuela's interior ministry has announced a new plan to combat kidnapping in the country, but it's doubtful the strategy will slow the country's steep rise in abductions for ransom.
Interior Minister Néstor Reverol, who was appointed to the cabinet position in early August by President Nicolás Maduro one day after the US government indicted him on drug charges, announced the launch of the National Plan against Kidnapping on September 23, reported Panorama.
The plan includes a new maximum security facility where alleged kidnappers will be held in preventive detention while awaiting trial. The authorities also intend to block cell phone signals from entering the country's prisons in order to cut down on inmates coordinating kidnappings from behind bars.
The interior minister said authorities will also create a special unit to attend to victims, which includes a 24-hour hotline to report kidnappings. The plan will first be implemented in the states of Miranda, Carabobo, Zulia, Aragua and the Capital District, reported EFE. According to Reverol, more than half of all kidnappings are registered in Miranda.
InSight Crime Analysis
There is little doubt that kidnapping is a major problem in Venezuela, which is suffering from a wider breakdown in law and order amid a worsening economic crisis.
There are no reliable statistics on how widespread kidnapping is, as these cases often go unreported and the Venezuelan government's crime data is notoriously suspect. One recent study, however, which was based on citizen perceptions and anecdotal evidence, suggested the number of kidnappings rose by 170 percent during the first semester of 2016. InSight Crime field research conducted in 2011 found that many people in the capital city of Caracas knew someone who had been a kidnapping victim. The most common form of the crime is known as express kidnapping, in which the hostage is held for less than 48 hours.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Kidnapping
Whether the government's new plan will in fact reduce the number of kidnappings is much less certain. The primordial issue facing any government initiative to combat crime in Venezuela is corruption; rather than disbanding kidnapping rings, police officers are often the ones running the illegal networks. The government's flagship citizen security operation, known as the OLP, has also been marred by allegations of widespread human rights abuses.