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COLOMBIA
Kidnapping cases surge
2/10/2011
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Organized crime and guerrilla groups fuel alarming trend.

The number of kidnapping cases in Colombia jumped 32 percent last year, compared with 2009, according to a nongovernmental counter-crime organization.

According to a study by País Libre, which aims to prevent kidnappings, extortion, forced disappearances and other crimes, there were 282 kidnappings in 2010, up from 213 the year before. Common crime accounted for 57 percent of kidnappings.

Guerrilla groups — most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the largest group, and the National Liberation Army — account for 35 percent of the country´s kidnappings, followed by other, emerging organized crime bands with 7 percent. Other perpetrators included criminal groups of drug-traffickers and former right-wing paramilitaries.

Extortion was the top motive for the kidnappings, accounting for 188 of the cases, the report said, with the most reports out of the Arauca, Valle, Antioquia, Cauca and Nariño departments.

Along with other human rights groups, País Libre has cheered the FARC´s announcement that it would release five hostages in mid-February, as a good sign for Colombia´s peace process.

The FARC announced on Dec. 8 that they would release a police officer, two soldiers and two town councilors that it kidnapped between 2007 and 2010.

Mediators are hoping that around mid-year the FARC will release the other 16 soldiers and police officers it still has in custody, according to former Sen. Piedad Córdoba, a member of the mediators´ team. "I think this is the start of a great campaign for peace in Colombia," she said.

“With this act, the insurgency is showing its will to find a political end to the conflict,” said the FARC. “If it really interests President Juan Manuel Santos to find a solution other than war, he should take advantage of the opportunity to begin a dialogue that allows for a political solution to this grave conflict.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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