A report from Colombian anti-kidnapping NGO Pais Libre released Thursday said there were 82 kidnappings in Colombia during the first three months of 2012, an 11% increase compared to the same period last year.
The amount of kidnappings between January and April was the highest registered in the country since 2008, when 155 cases were reported during the same three month period.
Olga Lucia Gomez, Executive Director of Pais Libre, told Colombia Reports the organization used “the same base for the statistics as the government […] our source is the Ministry of Defense.”
The report stated 40 of the cases were “simple kidnappings,” meaning they were not explicitly economical in nature. The remaining 42 were “extortive kidnappings,” defined by the perpetrators wanting some kind of financial benefit in return.
The cases involving extortive kidnappings have decreased from 56 cases during 2008’s first trimester to 41 during the same period in 2012. 75% of these were committed by “ordinary criminals,” or individuals unaffiliated with a larger criminal organization.
In total, 90% of kidnappings, whether extortive or not, were committed by ordinary criminals.
Kidnappings on the behalf of the left-wing guerrilla group FARC “decreased substantially” with three kidnappings in the 2012 period compared to 19 during the same period in 2011.
The ELN, a smaller guerrilla group, kidnapped seven people, identical to last year’s count.
The report said no kidnappings during the first three months of the year were committed by so-called Bacrims, a term used by the government referring to armed, criminal gangs that sprung up after the demobilization of right-wing paramilitaries, a process which began in 2003.
The regions seeing the biggest increase in kidnappings this year were the city of Bogota, which witnessed an increase of 11 kidnappings, for a total of 17, and the eastern department of Arauca, whose total rose to 15, a 200% hike.
The southwestern departments of Cauca and Putumayo saw the most extensive decreases, with no kidnappings in the first three months of 2012. Both departments are considered hotbeds of FARC activity and have experienced a high number of kidnappings in previous years.
Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Ivan Marquez,” who serves as the commander of the FARC’s Caribe Bloc, stated in March that the rebel group would halt the practice of kidnapping for financial reasons, and that they would no longer hold civilians for ransom.
However, there seems to have been a split on the issue among FARC’s leadership as Jorge Torres Victoria, alias “Pablo Catatumbo,” the chief of the FARC’s Western Bloc and a member of the group’s secretariat, indicated that kidnappings would continue as the armed conflict against Colombian security forces “requires finances,” according to an article published June 2 in Colombian magazine Semana.