CARACAS – Express kidnappings made a big comeback in Venezuela during the final months of 2017 after being interrupted for four months by street protests against the government that paralyzed entire sectors of the country, while almost totally halting the kidnappers’ movements and operations, experts and those affected told EFE.
“Carrying out crimes like that requires escape routes, traffic that keeps moving, and when you have streets that are blocked, such crimes come up against an obstacle they can do nothing about,” EFE was told by Fermin Marmol, a criminal lawyer and security consultant who advises the families of kidnappers’ hostages in Venezuela.
“By the time the citizens’ protests ended, the criminal gangs were hungry,” Marmol said in reference to the demonstrations that between April and July filled streets in the principal cities with barricades and stopped those “express kidnappings,” abductions that last a few hours until a ransom is collected.
Their reemergence was felt strongly in Caracas in late November and early December, where in one month Marmol has a record of 80 people kidnapped.
Of those 80 victims, at least nine were seized in just half an hour by one of the three large gangs operating in the capital, which set up a fake traffic-control station with its members armed with rifles and wearing police uniforms.
The other hostages were caught by kidnappers in an SUV who intercepted them on back streets with little traffic or when coming off an expressway, and forced them to get in the criminals’ vehicle.
According to Marmol, kidnappers pick their victims by the kind of cars they drive, generally targeting luxury vehicles which indicate the possibility of charging a bigger ransom.
Once inside the kidnappers’ auto, the victim or victims are questioned aggressively, while their mobile phones and billfolds are studied to determine, through their photos, credit cards and contacts, how much money they can charge, almost always in cash and in dollars.
Then comes the key question: “Who wants you back alive?”