3 Vital Travel Tips to Enhance Safety in Latin America




3 Unfortunate and why: 

The majority of kidnappings in the Latin America region are financially motivated. Statistically, over 90 percent of kidnap for ransom victims are released unharmed.

In the cases where a victim is injured or killed, there are three principal reasons:

  1. A pre-existing medical condition that was not identified or treated.
  2. An unsuccessful escape attempt by the victim.
  3. Security forces attempt a rescue and / or arrest, and the victim is killed during the operation.

A recent case study

Taking a recent kidnapping example in Valencia, northern Venezuela, armed gunmen abducted a business owner from his office during working hours. Although he was shown the weapon, the victim stayed calm, paid attention to the kidnapper’s commands, and followed him to the waiting car. He avoided eye contact and remained passive, which is essential to reducing the risk of being harmed in the initial abduction.

The victim was then driven blindfolded to the place of detention. This journey was probably uncomfortable, and it is possible that the victim was forced to change vehicles along the route. The victim would also have been searched and interrogated – and the nature of the questioning will have provided information about the criminals’ sophistication and intentions, as well as their knowledge about the victim. So the victim needs to avoid statements which may raise his potential value to the kidnappers.

Upon arrival at the place of captivity, the hostage takers called the victim’s family to make a ransom demand. During phone calls, rough treatment is possible in order to intimidate the family or crisis response negotiator into settling for the initial ransom demand. However, it is of no interest to the criminals to severely harm the victim as they are viewed at this stage as a business commodity. In the case of this victim, during three separate phone calls over a period of four days a ransom payment and a delivery time was eventually agreed upon.

To conclude, a controlled and stable demeanor when communicating with the kidnappers will keep them calm and measured. An escape attempt is ill advised unless the victim has reason to believe he is in imminent danger. After the release, a kidnap victim should consider professional counseling.

Co-authored by: Paul Allum - Director of Intelligence at Unity Resources Group, Security and Risk Analysis Intelligence and Liaison

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About the author

Charles Regini

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/