With a wobbly economy and almost worthless bolivar, which continues to plummet in the market, many Venezuelans are forced to live in poverty with basic necessities like food, water, and transportation becoming inaccessible for many of them. So it was hardly a surprise when people turned to illegal drugs and express kidnapping in Venezuela. It become a livelihood for the notorious criminals in the country.
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In Focus: Express Kidnapping in Venezuela
According to the Organized Crime Observatory, a group that tracks criminal activity in Venezuela, there were 411 kidnapping incidents during the first nine months of 2016, that’s 87 percent higher than the number of cases recorded within the same period in 2015. Consultant company Control Risks believes that criminality such as express abduction in Venezuela will continue to be a problem in the years to come because of the government’s failure to resolve economic meltdown and suppress criminality.
These numbers are said to be way lower than the actual as victims are afraid to report the crime for fear of retribution.
Two victims, a couple, recounted their harrowing experience of express abduction in Venezuela. Juan and Elena (not their real names) were on the road when suddenly a car bumped their 4 x 4. Three armed men alighted from the vehicle behind the couple’s car and shoved them into the getaway vehicle. They were held for several hours, beaten until they come into agreement. Kidnappers accept money, jewelry, electronics, and even expensive liquors.
Another reason that prevents the victims from reporting the kidnapping incident to the authorities is that some police officers are allegedly involved in some cases of abduction, says Luis Izquiel, a criminal lawyer and security coordinator.
The mayor of El Hatillo, David Smolansky, backed the statement, saying that policemen being engaged in express kidnapping in Venezuela and other criminal activities is not surprising considering that they are underpaid with only $10 salary a month. This amount is not even enough to feed a family for a week, what more for a month. And because they have access to military weapons, which they use to abduct victims, the police easily succumb to temptation. Just a few hours of express kidnapping in Venezuela allows corrupt government employees and criminals to earn tens of thousands of dollars.
But despite the widespread corruption in the law and order department, Smolansky insists that law enforcers involve in express kidnapping in Venezuela are a minority. He also added that he managed to clean up the police ranks in his three years in office, including dismissing 43 police officials. This move resulted in noticeably lower abduction cases under Smolansky’s domain, which had the highest rate of kidnappings before his term.
Perhaps the main factor in the spiraling cases of express kidnapping in Venezuela is that many criminals have realized that this particular criminal activity is a low-risk and high-income job.
According to Venezuelan Public Ministry, only 2 percent of the express criminals, who are usually 18 to 28 years young men, are convicted because of the defective justice system and deep-seated culture of corruption. When they get caught, oftentimes they are released within 48 hours, making the criminals bold and audacious.
Another victim, who asked not to be named, described his ordeal after a group of men followed him early in the morning on his way home from a party. He was brought to a motel room where he was beaten severely. He was then asked to give $50,000 as ransom but was later reduced to $1,800. His watch and ring were not spared. After receiving the payment, he was dropped off by his kidnappers near his place. The victim said, the experience made him more cautious in choosing which road to take.
Citizens now have learned how to be careful. They avoid late-night outings, and if going out of their homes can’t be avoided, they go out by groups and don’t stop at traffic lights. They now also check the area before parking and make sure not to park in dark and isolated areas. Others invest in armored cars and security guards. GPS trackers with panic buttons are also good investments. Not only does it allow the user to ask for help when something bad happens to them, it also helps their families and the law enforcers track down the kidnappers.