Murder Shines a Light on Venezuela Kidnapping

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The death of a 38-year-old man in a confrontation between criminals and police takes the number of murdered kidnap victims in Venezuela this year to 21, as kidnapping not only spreads rapidly throughout Venezuela but is also evolving.

Lobsang Alberto Rodriguez was shot in the back by his kidnappers after police approached the house where he was being held while investigating reports of suspicious behavior in the municipality of Libertador, in the state of Miranda.

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Unofficial police statistics indicate he was the 21st kidnapping victim to be murdered this year out of 361 cases reported to police — meaning victims have now been murdered in 5.8 percent of cases the police are aware of, reported El Nacional.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reliable statistics on kidnapping in Venezuela are hard to come by, partly because the crime often goes unreported, with victims preferring to pay up rather than inform police, and partly because the Venezuelan government is reluctant to release negative information on security issues.

However, according to investigative police unit the CICPC, between 1999 and 2011 there was a 20 fold increase in cases, from just 44 to 1,105. In 2012, there were 1,970 kidnappings in Venezuela, according to a study by criminologist Fermin Marmol Garcia.

The statistics do not include so-called “express kidnappings,” where victims are only held for a short time — varying from a few hours to three days — as kidnappers clean out their bank accounts or demand comparatively small ransoms. InSight Crime field research conducted in 2010 suggested that in Caracas alone there are around 20 to 40 express kidnappings a day.

Criminals from Colombia — once the kidnapping capital of the world — have played an important role in the rise of the crime in Venezuela. Likely motivated by harsher penalties for kidnapping in their home country, Colombian kidnapping rings have been migrating across the border. Initially they focused on the border regions but there have been recent indications that bi-national kidnapping rings involving criminals from both countries have been operating in the country’s interior.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has also highlighted the role of corrupt security forces in kidnapping, in June this year claiming that 90 percent of kidnappings in Caracas were linked to the local police.

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