• Connect with us on Linkedin

Kidnappings Plummet as Colombia's Conflict Changes

Colombia's sharp decline in kidnapping in the last decade Colombia's sharp decline in kidnapping in the last decade

A new report shows how the number of kidnappings carried out by Colombia's illegal armed groups has nosedived over the last 10 years, corresponding to the changing dynamics of the country's conflict.

Linkedin
Google +

In 2003, 2,122 people were kidnapped in Colombia, a rate of nearly six a day. By 2012, this had fallen 85 percent to 305 -- just under six a week -- according to the report from Colombian NGO Pais Libre. The number of people kidnapped fell dramatically between 2003 and 2007 (see Pais Libre's graph, below), but rose by 43 percent between 2009 and 2011, which also saw 305 kidnappings.kidnapping graph1

The role of common crime has increased, while that of illegal armed groups has diminished. Over a third of kidnappings over the 10 years were carried out by common criminals, a figure that rises to 85 percent for 2012.

Colombia's biggest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was responsible for nearly a quarter of cases in the 10-year period, but just 7 percent in 2012, while the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) was behind 11.5 percent of the kidnappings over the decade, and 7 percent of those in 2012 (see Pais Libre's graph, below, with common crime listed under "Delco").

The paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) were responsible for 5 percent of kidnapping cases over the decade, despite officially demobilizing by 2006. Their successors in the new generation of criminal organizations labelled by the government as BACRIM (from the Spanish for criminal bands) accounted for 1.3 percent of cases. This is growing -- in 2012, 2 percent of cases were attributed to the BACRIM.

kidnapping graph2

Over half the kidnappings were classified as being for extortion, while 42 percent were "simple" kidnappings -- for political leverage, publicity, or other reasons not involving ransom demands.

InSight Crime

Once renowned as the kidnapping capital of the world, Colombia has made dramatic progress in reducing the number of cases over the last decade.

Much of this can be attributed to the country's military success in its war against guerrilla groups. In 2002, the FARC, and to a lesser extent the ELN, controlled large territories and transit routes, where they would set up roadblocks to carry out "miracle fishing" (la pesca milagrosa) -- randomly stopping vehicles in the hope of finding passengers rich enough to be worth kidnapping or extorting.

Since a military assault drove the guerrillas out of much of their territory, and increased security measures have helped secure the nation's main road networks, the guerrillas' capacity to carry out such kidnappings has diminished substantially.

Kidnapping has also become a less attractive proposition for the guerrillas. It is a deeply unpopular tactic and a public relations disaster for the guerrillas, while the economic benefits are now dwarfed by the money to be made in the drug trade. These, along with the possibility of peace talks, were likely contributing factors in the FARC's decision to renounce the practice of kidnapping for extortion last year, which accounts for the much reduced number of kidnappings attributed to the guerrillas in 2012.

Nevertheless, it should be noted the majority of kidnappings over the last decade, and much more so over the last few years, were carried out by common criminals, who are not subject to the sort of military and political pressures that helped secure a drop in guerrilla kidnappings.

Linkedin
Google +

---

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

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link 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.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Is Honduras Faking its Falling Homicide Rates?

Is Honduras Faking its Falling Homicide Rates?

Officials say homicides in Honduras have dropped over 15 percent in 2014 compared to the same period the previous year, but it is unclear whether this represents a real reduction in violent crime or is...

Read more

Breaking Down LatAm’s Lucrative Trade in Stolen Cell Phones

Breaking Down LatAm’s Lucrative Trade in Stolen Cell Phones

The Latin American trade in purloined cell phones has evolved from common street crime into a lucrative, well-organized business with transnational reach, and, given weak legislation, corruption and a lack of coordination among security forces,...

Read more

Journalist's Murder Shines Light on Colombia's Politics-Crime Nexus

Journalist's Murder Shines Light on Colombia's Politics-Crime Nexus

A journalist in north Colombia has been murdered after accusing the local mayor's staff of plotting to kill him, in a reminder of ongoing ties between politics and organized crime, and the danger faced by...

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile