CARACAS, Venezuela— Kidnapping is big business in Venezuela, and business is good.
In addition to the 24,000 murders registered in this South American nation last year, a growing number Venezuelans are getting grabbed off the streets for express kidnappings and extortion. And everybody is a target.
“It can be any type of person who has money…lawyers, the owner of a bakery, women, children. Anyone,” a local gang leader told Fusion. “We’ll kidnap a child and pressure their parents to pay.”
Express kidnapping, where a victim is nabbed and held hostage for a quick ransom, has become the preferred method for criminal gangs.
“Within 48 hours they have to respond. If, in those 48 hours they haven’t paid, we let them go; or if they’re too stubborn, they’ll disappear,” the gang leader said.
Such was the experience of Pablo Arias, a graduate student who was recently abducted from his car while driving home from school. Arias says gunmen forced their way into his vehicle, beat him, and dumped him 30 miles outside of the capital.
“It’s something that you only used to hear about in the press,” he said. “But when it’s something that has happened to those around you, including yourself, you realize it’s really serious.”
Caracas now ranks as one of the world’s kidnapping capitals, with an average of two express kidnappings per day.
Watch Fusion’s exclusive video above.