The story of two Colombians kidnapped by 'Coyotes' in Mexico

Two young Colombians were kidnapped in Mexico for nearly 15 days when they travelled from Bucaramanga in Santander to Bogotá on 10 February and boarded a flight at El Dorado International Airport to fulfil the American dream.

Kevin Cristo Herrera and Edinson Quiñonez Conde, spent 15 days in the hands of an illegal network. Archive photo by Agencies
Kevin Cristo Herrera and Edinson Quiñonez Conde, spent 15 days in the hands of an illegal network. Archive photo by Agencies

Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21, and Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25, traveled to Anahuac in the state of Tamaulipas, where they reportedly sought contact to help them illegally cross the U.S. border, according to the coordinated investigation by Colombian and Mexican police.

Tamaulipas is an important commercial point with the U.S. - two sea crossings and 15 land crossings - which at the same time, made this state the cradle of one of the most powerful cartels dedicated to cocaine trafficking, 'the Zetas', and opened the lucrative business of trafficking illegal migrants through the so-called 'coyotes'.

In Colombia, Christ and Quiñonez's relatives have not heard from them since 13 February. Everything indicates that on that day the possible negotiation that they had been carrying out with a group of people dedicated to the passage of illegal migrants to North America was damaged.

"In a first hypothesis, it is estimated that they did not take all the money for the 'coyotes' to pass them by; or the criminals saw an opportunity to obtain more money and began to communicate with their families," Major Oscar Prieto, head of the Gaula de la Policía in Santander, told EL TIEMPO.

So on February 21, the sister of one of the young men approached the Gaula's facilities in Bucaramanga and reported that her relative had been kidnapped and was asking for $10,000 for each of them to be released.

In Bucaramanga, the Gaula advised the family to attend to every communication, mostly through WhatsApp messages, and thus maintain a possible negotiation.

At the same time, the police made contact with their counterparts in Mexico with the objective of achieving the rescue or liberation of Christ and Quiñonez.

"Communications and the demand for money changed, at first they tried to be nice, and ended up, most likely to generate pressure, threatening to kill them if they did not agree to their demands," said Major Prieto.

In Colombia, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the police opened the criminal news for kidnapping for ransom and began exchanging information with the Mexican anti-kidnapping police, who gave priority to locating the Colombians, "always in the fear that they would be killed," the investigator said.

Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25 (left) and Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21 (right) will return to the country tomorrow. Photo: Gaula Policía Nacional
Edinson Quiñonez Conde, 25 (left) and Kevin Cristo Herrera, 21 (right) will return to the country tomorrow. Photo: Gaula Policía Nacional

"From the CiberGaula the investigation was advanced based on the cellular numbers from which they called and contacted the families. We tried to make a georeference. The information collected was given to the Mexican Police who tracked the numbers and mounted the rescue operation. They verified the identity of one of the kidnappers, and through his cell phone they were able to locate him," said General Fernando Murillo, director of the Gaula of the Police nationwide.

The hostages had been taken to Monterrey, where Mexican police located and rescued them on March 5 amidst heavy gunfire. "Fortunately our nationals were unharmed. Their state of health is good and in the next few hours, they will arrive in Colombia. They were left in the custody of the Colombian embassy," General Murillo said.

The young people will return to the country tomorrow, March 11, after meeting some requirements from the authorities in Mexico.

Source: El Tiempo


KIDNAPPING SITUATION IN MEXICO

Approximately 5 Mexicans are kidnapped every day. The states with the highest number of kidnappings are Federal District, Guerrero, Baja California and Michoacan. The main victims of the kidnappers are people of known economic solvency (businessmen, industrialists, politicians, traders, cattle breeders, artists) and their families.

According to the Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, I believe that on average, for every kidnapping reported, five are not reported. More than 75% of them are solved with the payment of the ransom. The largest ransom paid in recent years is U$S 50,000,000 in Mexico City. The places where kidnappings most commonly occur are at work or home, restaurants or places near the home.

Kidnapping Patterns

Express Kidnapping

It's a short term kidnapping, with a quick gain, of one or more people. The pressure is on the individual to make cash withdrawals from ATMs or request a ransom. Ransom demands are small amounts or more easily obtained. Low professionalism of the offenders, usually violent. It generates moral and psychological damage to the victims and their environment.

Collective Kidnapping

It's a lesser-used crime. Its objective is to obtain safe conduct (hostages), to negotiate a surrender or to ask for safe means of escape. The offenders are usually thieves and not professional kidnappers.

Extortionate Kidnapping

It's a more complex crime than the previous ones. Your objective, as in the other cases, is to obtain cash. As victims, people with economic strength are usually selected.

Virtual Kidnapping - Extortion

It's a nonexistent kidnapping. Criminals take advantage of a person's absence (travel, movies, etc.) to extort money from the family. The figures requested are smaller, so it is easier to collect the sums they demand. Most common example: calls made from detention centers or prisons. Offenders access information through various channels: telephone directory, contest coupons, active information (victim), passive information ( circle).

Places where kidnappings usually occur

Close to home and office

In restaurants

On the road

In transit hotels

Others

Main objectives of the kidnappings

92% MONEY

5% PUBLICITY

3% POLITICAL

Kidnapping Resolution

70 % paid rescue, no police intervention.

22 % Paid rescue, with police intervention.

6% No ransom payment, with police intervention.

2 % Escape or death, without police intervention.

Source: National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

US INCLUDES MEXICO IN COUNTRIES WITH A RISK OF KIDNAPPING

The US Department of State added a new label on its travel advisory website that includes "kidnapping and hostage-taking" as a potential danger in several countries, including Mexico.

The label, added on Tuesday to 35 countries, joins the existing ones that contemplate crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters, health hazards, among others.

The State Department urges Americans not to travel in Mexico to the states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas under any circumstances. It warns that some areas are at greater risk and that violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, car theft, and theft, are widespread.

The United States government has a limited capacity to provide emergency services to US citizens in many areas of Mexico since travel by US government employees to these areas is prohibited or significantly restricted. In case of traveling to Mexico, you should use the toll roads as much as possible and avoid driving alone or at night.

According to the official statement, in many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities. It suggested taking care when visiting bars, nightclubs, and local casinos and asked for jewelry or expensive watches. Be very attentive when going to banks or ATMs.

It also suggests that US citizens sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and facilitate location in an emergency. US citizens who travel abroad must always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Check the traveler's checklist.

"Be very careful when visiting bars, nightclubs and local casinos; Do not show signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry. Be very attentive when visiting banks or ATMs, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and facilitate location in an emergency. Follow the State Department on Facebook and Twitter. Review the Crime and Security reports for Mexico."

In addition to Mexico, Uganda is included, a country in which the American citizen Kimberly Sue Endicott was recently kidnapped, for which a reward of 500 thousand dollars was demanded.

The woman has already been released, but President Donald Trump demanded that those responsible be prosecuted.

Venezuela was also described as a nation at risk of kidnapping. The South American country has a tense relationship with the United States, which recognizes Juan Guaidó as interim president and seeks the dismissal of Nicolás Maduro.

WHAT IS AN EXPRESS KIDNAPPING AND HOW TO ACT IF YOU SUFFER ONE

During the last years, the 'express kidnappings' have increased in Mexico, however, not everyone knows what this term refers to and how to act if you are the victim of one.

Express kidnapping is the retention of a person against their will for the shortest possible time to obtain the gain in exchange for their freedom, either by withdrawing their accounts from ATMs or by asking their family members for a ransom.

In this type of crime, there is no strategy to keep the victim captive for more than 48 hours because the captors do not plan the crime in advance and only go out in search of a victim.

According to figures from the Autonomous University of Mexico, 5 people are abducted per day.

How to act in the face of an express kidnapping

Be calm

The first thing you should do is stay calm. These criminals seek to get money without complications in the shortest possible time.

Negotiation

Seek to negotiate with the captors in a calm way to seek an agreement, although not being too accessible to their requests.

Take care of the data

We must take care of the information that is given to the captors, avoiding talking about goods and properties. Not being a planned kidnapping they do not know much about the economic situation of the people they kidnap.

Avoid looking at the captors in the eyes

This could put your life at risk. Better choose to keep your eyes down during a conversation.

The contact telephone

If you are asked for a family member's contact number, it is better to give a local number. This way the communication will be easier and you do not risk the privacy of someone else.

Remember the details

During your conversations with the kidnappers pay attention to details and information about them. This will facilitate their subsequent capture.

Speed

Look for the negotiation to end as soon as possible.

How to act when obtaining freedom

When the victim is released, he/she should denounce what happened by telephone or go to the nearest public security institution. Seek professional help to overcome the emotional trauma you experienced.

How one can avoid an express kidnapping

Be alert when you walk down the street and take care of who goes around you. Most of these kidnappings occur on the routes you frequent near work and home.

Try to give neighbors and friends the least information about your assets and economic capacity. Many kidnappings are perpetrated by people close to the victim.

Always visualize escape routes when you go to a place in case you find yourself in danger. If you are at risk you can shout "fire" or "earthquake" to get the attention of others around you.

By Mexicanist