Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I can tell you that the Colombian Government has a variety of institutions involved in the fight against kidnapping.  It is good, in some ways, to have so many institutions involved, but it also leads to inefficiency, duality of roles, turf battles, confusion, etc.  Some years before I became involved, the GOC created special law enforcement units within the national police and military dedicated to disrupting kidapping gangs/cells, gathering intelligence on kidnappers, and of course, rescuing kidnapping victims.  These units, known as GAULAS (my self-imposed tendency to quickly forget my old careers sometimes takes over so please excuse a few lapses).  (GAULA is an acronym that stands for something like groups for the protection of personal freedom.)

Since many kidnapped victims are taken in cities or small towns (primarily by the FARC or criminal gangs that sell victims to the FARC) and later transferred to more remote areas, it becomes very important to effect rescues as soon as possible, especially before the victims are transferred to areas where the FARC has domination.

Our assistance efforts were in several areas, one of which was to improve the effectiveness of the GAULAS at rescuing victims unharmed, collecting and preserving evidence, and apprehending kidnappers and successfully bringing them to justice.  We also emphasized proper law enforcement methodology and respect for human rights during training sessions.

Another goal was integrating the various GOC institutions with anti-kidnapping roles via a state of the art computerized information and communications system that permitted real time sharing of relevant kidnapping data between agencies, including the creation of kidnapping investigations reports and criminal justice data by appropriate agencies.

Along with these initiatives, other progress was being made in reforming the Colombian justice system by changing laws and creating a modern courts system that streamlined the Napoleonic Code system that was no longer able to cope with the types and numbers of crimes being committed.

Another part of the anti-kidnapping puzzle was to gain the trust of average Colombians who, like many citizens of Latin American countries, distrust their own justice systems to such an extent that most crime goes unreported.  In Colombia, as in other countries with kidnapping problems, private institutions have emerged that specialize in collecting fees from victims' families, by arranging for ransoms in hopes that victims will be freed if the police are not involved.  While these tactics sometimes work, the Betancourt and other cases indicate they do not always have the desired result.  In addition, paying ransom makes kidnapping profitable and reinforces the belief that this crime does pay.

I have not kept up with the efforts to end Colombia's war with the FARC.  I know attempts have been made to resolve issues, but I don't see much incentive for the FARC to cease its activities.  They will want something that is at least as profitable to them as their current criminal schemes.  Part of the problem with the Government effort has been a lack of willingness on the part of the military to engage the FARC.  During a short period of time, it appeared that was changing, and it may have.  As I said, I really haven't kept up with it.    

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 02:09:55 PM EST
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