Anti-kidnapping NGO Pais Libre said Sunday 58 people were kidnapped in Colombia during the first three months of 2013, indicating a 40% decrease compared to the same period last year and the lowest figure registered in Colombia since 2003.
During the past decade, some 6,880 people have been kidnapped in Colombia.
FACT SHEET: Colombia kidnapping statistics
Pais Libre said the region most affected by kidnappings was the southwestern Cauca department, with seven reported cases of kidnappings during the first three months of the year.
69% of all kidnappings were perpetrated by common criminals and a further 19% by Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC. The smaller ELN rebel group was responsible for 10%, while the so-called Bacrim (criminal gangs and paramilitary successor groups) were responsible for 2% of reported kidnappings.
The majority of the kidnappings had extortionate purposes, Pais Libre said.
kidnappings in Colombia since 1980
The FARC officially vowed to end the practice of kidnapping civilians for financial reasons in May 2012, in a seeming bid to convince the Colombian government to initiate peace talks. However, the decision caused rifts in the FARC leadership, with senior FARC leader and commander of the group’s Western Bloc, “Pablo Catatumbo,” saying kidnappings would continue as the war “required finances.” Meanwhile, the FARC’s Southern Bloc, another important rebel fighting unit, has observed near-complete silence on the issue.
Most of the kidnappings allegedly committed by the FARC in 2013 took place in the Cauca department and the southern Caqueta department, where FARC leader “El Paisa” and his “Teofilo Forero Castro Mobile Column” are alleged to be opposed to the government-FARC peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba.
Very few foreigners remain kidnapped in Colombia. A Canadian miner and co-CEO of the exploration branch of the Braeval mining company kidnapped by the rebels in January in the northern Bolivar department, is still being held by the rebels. Clara Rojas, the President of Pais Libre, told Colombia Reports the kidnapping could be an attempt of the ELN to receive national attention ahead of possible exploratory peace talks with the Colombian government. The ELN rebels have demanded mining rights for the rural poor ahead of any possible release.