While leftist guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN used to be the main culprit of kidnappings in Colombia, this role has now almost entirely been taken over by common criminals, but also they are losing ground.
The FARC officially ended kidnapping in 2012. The ELN has so far refused to do so, but has been reduced in size to such an extent that it no longer has the capacity to carry out kidnappings on a large scale.
However, small criminal gangs and individuals have continued kidnapping for extortion purposes like they always have albeit to a considerably lesser extent, according to statistics released by the Anti-Kidnapping and Extortion Unit (GAULA) of Colombia’s National Police.
Including the three brief kidnappings of three journalists in the past month, the ELN reportedly carried out no more than six kidnappings so far this year, and only in the relatively small areas where they exercise territorial control.
Criminals not belonging to a particular group have carried out the vast majority of the 64 kidnappings in the first half of this year.
However, this number represents a major drop compared to last year and is approximately a measly 4% of the kidnappings registered in 2000, the year in which most kidnappings ever took place.
Part of this major drop in kidnappings is due to the military offensives carried out in the first decade of this century that pushed the guerrillas away from populated areas.
Kidnappings in Colombia
But the guerrillas’ reduced territorial influence does not explain the ongoing and steep drop in kidnappings by common criminals, who by no means have ceased to exist.