In Colombia no more than 79 people are currently held hostage by armed groups or criminals, Colombian authorities say. However, NGOs specialized in kidnappings say that number is much higher.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, Fondelibertad, a Defense Ministry body in charge of collecting data on kidnapping, the real number of hostages is only 2.8% of what was considered in 2007 when 2,800 people were considered held captive by one of the country’s armed groups or criminals..
The government body draws this conclusion after a thorough clean-up of its database.
211 of the alleged kidnapping victims have died, 744 were never kidnapped, but victim of forced disappearance (and thus probably executed) and 1,148 are now free or never were kidnapped in the first place, Fondelibertad says.
Of the 79 hostages, 60 were kidnapped before 2007, nineteen in 2008 and ten after January 2009.
“For now we can affirm that between 2002 and 2009 kidnapping for extortion has deminished 90.6%. But you can not forget that the FARC, ELN and AUC have to respond for those disappeared, dead and still held captive,” Fondelibertad director Harlan Henao told the newspaper.
ONGs Pais Libre and Nueva Esperanza, both specialized in Colombia’s kidnapping tragedies, told El Tiempo they have their doubts about the government figures.
“We think that this reduction is hard to believe. It does not convince the country or the international community,” Pais Libre director Olga Gomez told the newspaper, adding that the government refused to declassify the research it did to draw its conclusion.
Nueva Esperanza director Adolfo Muñoz said “the government figures are biased and deceitful. They do not want to give the real numbers, because it would harm the credibility of the democratic security policy.”