Cross border business- what you should do to recognize and prevent an incident when traveling in Latin America
Author's note: In our previous two pieces we discussed the existence of kidnapping and extortion risks in Latin America for businesses pursuing growth opportunities there and an employer’s Duty of Care to their employees when they travel for business to higher risks areas.
This article dives into finer details on how to prevent those situations from occurring and the best steps for remaining safe if such a circumstance does arise. While these tips are aimed at small and medium businesses with plans for or recent expansion to Latin America, they need not only apply to your employees in the region. They can also be shared with family or friends living there and anyone vacationing or sightseeing in these high risk areas
Kidnapping groups in the Latin America region vary from inexperienced and opportunistic criminals, to professional and well-organized groups such as drug trafficking cartels. While they differ in sophistication and tactics, they all tend to engage in some degree of victim selection and targeting.
In a recent kidnapping case that outlines poor security awareness in a high-risk area, two high-profile entrepreneurs were kidnapped from outside a mall in broad daylight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The pair had developed a habit of taking lunch at the same food court, travelling between their office and the mall along the same route at the same time of day, while unbeknownst to them a group of criminals were watching their every move.
One day, on their way back from the mall, they were intercepted by two vehicles and forced into one of the kidnappers’ cars. The kidnappers initially demanded $200,000 USD from one of the victims, which he was able to negotiate to a final settlement figure of $36,000 USD. The captors held onto one of the victims while taking the other to a bank to retrieve the money. Afterward, they were dropped off in a different neighborhood to the area they were abducted from, and escaped the experience physically unscathed.
During the selection phase, the kidnappers conducted surveillance of the victims and established an understanding of their routines and that they used the same restaurant for lunch on a daily basis.
The restaurant provided an ideal location for the kidnappers as they could easily surveil the victims without being exposed. Unity estimates that 75 percent of kidnap victims are targeted in vicinity of their residence or workplace.
3 Safety precautions:
1 Avoiding a precdictable routine
Hence, avoiding a predictable routine can be effective to deterring would-be kidnappers. This can involve leaving and returning to frequently visited locations at different times, while travelling via different routes and alternating between various transport methods.
2. Be prudent about posting information on the internet
The kidnapping group would have estimated the wealth of the pair before deciding whether to carry out the abduction, and this would have led to an above average demand for the entrepreneurs. In many cases the kidnapping group will use the Internet as a primary tool for researching their victims. However, a more conspicuous indication of an individual’s wealth would be the vehicle they drive or the clothes they wear, which in this case were of considerable value.
3. Be mindful of appearance
High profile or wealthy individuals should be mindful of their appearance when travelling in high-risk areas or parts of a city experiencing serious criminal activity. Further, be mindful to protect personal and organizational information, including information on the internet, social media, and the press. Ultimately, the safety and security of an individual or their family is only as good as the security awareness practiced in a potentially dangerous environment. Those that require this type of training should consider an established and competent security consulting firm such as Unity Resources Group.
Next page- 3 Unfortunate endings and why
About the author
Director of Global Crisis Response for Unity Resources Group. Oversee all kidnap, extortion, and threat related global crisis response operations. Now residing in San Antonio, Texas. Previous Managing Director of Kroll's crisis response and planning program, primarily addressing incidents of kidnap-ransom/extortion; communicated threats/potential workplace violence; associated pre-incident security services, especially use of intelligence for security policies, practices, and business operations decision-making in high risk areas of the world. Formerly led the FBI's international kidnap negotiation program, including multiple responses to high-intensity, usually short-notice hostage / barricade, kidnap and terrorism incidents. Analyzed intelligence, assessed potential threats, and identified and implemented operational strategies. Unity Resources Group http://www.unityresourcesgroup.com/