Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Venezuela: It Is Likely That Ransom Was Paid for Release of Costa Rican Diplomat

According to The Associated Press, Costa Rican Ambassador to Venezuela Nazareth Avendaño received a call from Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami earlier this morning (April 10) who told her that Commercial Attaché Guillerno Cholele, 59, who had been kidnapped on Sunday night (April 8) by a number of gunmen in La Urbina, a Caracas neighborhood.

COMMENT: In a Twitter message this morning, El Aissami simply said that Mr. Cholele was with police and "on the way to being reunited with relatives."

Ransom kidnapping in Venezuela has approached near art-form levels; the majority of kidnappings stem from economic motives and not political ones.

According to the Venezuelan government, state police officers in Miranda found Cholele walking at 0200 hours today in the town of Charallave, south of Caracas, where his captors apparently released him.

Interestingly, and in contrast to very vague comments made separately by other governmental officials, one police officer, when asked if a ransom had been paid, responded by saying, "We aren't in a position to know if a payment occurred, or what were the other things that had an influence in his liberation." If no ransom had been paid, why not say "no"?

Although El Aissami had credited the authorities' investigation and "police pressure" for the liberation of the diplomat, this statement is not consistent with the current state of the police system in Venezuela, where kidnappings are out of control and police misconduct is more the norm than the exception.

From various news account's describing Cholele's abduction, one has the impression that the Costa Rican Embassy had few details of Venezuelan efforts until the time that Cholele was kidnapped.

The recent shooting death of a Chilean diplomat's daughter, age 19, by police in Maracaibo and the January 2012 kidnapping of Mexican Ambassador Carlos Pujalte and his wife, who were released after the payment of an undisclosed sum, do not give one soft and fuzzy comfort in Venezuelan law enforcement. Additionally, in November 2011, Chile's consul in Caracas was briefly kidnapped and was released by his captors after a number of hours. He was also shot and wounded during the ordeal.

As a matter of interest, the gunmen who seized Cholele knew full well that he was a diplomat, as he was driving a vehicle with CD tags [diplomatic]. Additionally, a ransom was demanded after he was seized near his residence.

His abductors took him away in his vehicle, which has diplomatic corps license plates, the Foreign Ministry said. It said the abductors had called the diplomat's home after the kidnapping and demanded a ransom.

It is clear that Cholele's abduction was conducted for economic gain. It is also rare in the majority of kidnappings that occur in Venezuela for gunmen to release their victim WITHOUT compensation.

It is understandable why government officials attempt to put a "happy face" on announcements when diplomats, the wealthy and celebrities are kidnapped, but the reality is that money is always at the root of why such persons are kidnapped.

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