Kidnappings are on the rise in Colombia, with common criminals surpassing guerrilla groups as the worst offenders.
Kidnappings in Colombia increased during the first quarter of 2012, according to a report released on July 12 by Fundacion Pais Libre, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which specializes in monitoring kidnappings in Colombia.
According to the NGO’s report, the number of kidnappings nationwide rose by eight victims during the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period in the previous year, rising from 73 in 2011 to 81 in 2012.
In Bogota, the increase was more dramatic, going from six kidnapping victims in the first 2011 trimester to 17 so far this year.
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Clara Rojas, director of the organization and former victim of a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapping, said there was no increase in the number of kidnappings by armed groups. This may largely be due to the FARC’s February 2012 promise to stop kidnapping civilians. While the renunciation of this proctice did not prevent the guerrillas from taking a French journalist as a so-called prisoner of war in April, overall the FARC has substantially decreased its kidnappings this year, going from 19 in the first quarter of 2011 to three in 2012. On the other hand, another rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has stayed consistent at seven kidnappings in both years.
Fundacion Libre claims that common criminals made up the difference in kidnappings, accounting for seven out of eight cases, overall committing 71 of the 81 kidnappings. While the FARC may have largely moved away from kidnapping for profit due because it has more profitable means to fianance itself, such as drug trafficking and gold mining, regular criminals with no overhead a fewer ambitions find the average ransom of $5,000 an enticing incentive.