Convictions Underscore Security Forces’ Role in Venezuela Kidnappings

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Four soldiers have been convicted of an “express” kidnapping in Venezuela, highlighting the participation of the security forces in the kidnapping boom Venezuela has experienced over the last decade.

Three sergeants and a deputy lieutenant from Venezuela’s National Guard (GNB) were sentenced to 30 years in prison for kidnapping a man in Libertador, Caracas in 2010, reported El Universal.

The court heard how the four soldiers forced the man into their car at gun point and demanded an immediate ransom to let him go.

Despite the men lowering the amount of money demanded, the victim continued to insist he did not have the money to pay the ransom. The kidnappers then pushed him from the car and shot at him twice, with one bullet hitting him in the leg.

InSight Crime Analysis

Kidnappings have increased dramatically in Venezuela in recent years, with official figures from 2011 showing they had risen 20 fold since 1999.

However, these figures fail to take into account the type of “express” kidnapping that occurred in the case of the convicted soldiers, in which victims are held for no more than a few hours and smaller ransoms and immediate payment are demanded. InSight Crime field research from the year when this kidnapping took place revealed an estimated 20 to 40 of these were taking place each day in Caracas alone.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Kidnapping

It is no surprise that the security forces are involved in this. Corruption in the National Guard is endemic, and the body is behind much of the country’s drug trafficking activities, creating the conditions for members to diversify into other criminal activities.

While this case involved military personnel, it is not just the army. According to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, 90 percent of kidnappings in Caracas are linked to municipal police.

While Maduro has publicly stated that tackling corruption is one of his policy priorities, it is unlikely this will extend to criminality in the armed forces, as the military makes up a key pillar of his support, and one he will not want to upset during a period of political instability.

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