Venezuela reportedly saw 110 kidnappings in the first six months of 2014, indicating a downward trend in incidences of the crime, but this figure likely says little about the true scale of the problem.
Of these kidnappings, the greatest number took place in capital city Caracas, with 29 cases, according to figures obtained by El Nacional. Following Caracas were the states of Miranda and Carabobo — on the Caribbean coast — and Zulia, on the northern border with Colombia. One hundred of the total victims remain in captivity.
In one high-profile case this year, Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto was abducted in April. Her kidnappers reportedly did not demand a ransom payment and Pinto was released eight days later.
Kidnapping figures for 2014 only amount to a third of the cases recorded between January and November 2013, according to El Nacional. This means the number of reported kidnappings is on track to come in below last year’s levels.
InSight Crime Analysis
Kidnapping in Venezuela has reached epidemic proportions since late President Hugo Chavez took power in 1999, as growing social instability and poverty levels have provided fertile breeding grounds for both organized and petty crime to flourish. In the first 12 years of Chavez’s presidency, official figures revealed a more than 20-fold increase in kidnapping.
Recent government statistics indicate kidnappings decreased by 51 percent between June 2013 and June 2014 — the year following the creation of a national anti-kidnapping unit.
However, it is unlikely that either this figure or the numbers acquired by El Nacional reflect the actual scale of the problem. According to criminologist Fermin Marmol Garcia, at least 70 percent of kidnappings in Venezuela go unreported.
Government kidnapping statistics also exclude the most common form of the crime — express kidnappings — which frequently last only a few hours. Field research carried out by InSight Crime indicates there were between 20 and 40 express kidnappings a day in Caracas alone in 2010, while a study by criminologist Marmol concluded that 90 percent of all kidnappings in 2012 fit this modality.
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According to a report by Control Risks, Venezuela had the second highest number of kidnappings in Latin America in 2013 — surpassed only by Mexico — and the fifth highest in the world, placing it above both Colombia and Brazil.
While Colombian criminals and guerrilla groups have for some time been important perpetrators of the crime in Venezuela’s border regions, there have been recent reports of binational Colombian-Venezuelan gangs operating in the interior of the country. Additionally, corrupt police are thought to play a major role in Venezuelan kidnapping.