The Colombian Ministry of Defense released statistics that show kidnappings are again on the rise across the country, continuing a trend first observed last year.
After peaking in 2000, kidnapping rates in Colombia have been declining steadily. However, in 2010 kidnappings jumped 22 percent between January and October 2010, the first such increase in a decade, according to government anti-kidnapping agency Fondelibertad. That year, the FARC were responsible for 23 percent of all kidnappings, according to the think-tank.
There are signs that the numbers may continue to increase. New data from the Defense Ministry shows that during the first half of 2011, there were 108 kidnap cases compared to 93 during the same period last year, an increase of nearly 20 percent.
So far this year the FARC have concentrated on the high-profile kidnapping of oil workers, including one case in March which saw 23 subcontractors briefly kidnapped by the rebels. In another case in June, the FARC kidnapped three Chinese subcontractors and their translator in Caqueta, who have yet to be released. The FARC may also be prepared to continue using kidnapping as a tool to pressure local political authorities, as indicated by the recent kidnapping of mayoral candidate Edward Castellano in Meta.
Previous numbers from the Defense Ministry found that kidnapping increased most significantly in departments near the Venezuelan border, such as Arauca, where kidnapping increased 350 percent in the last two years. In 2009, Arauca registered just 8 kidnapping cases, compared to the 36 cases reported in 2010.