Recently I was in a state outside of Caracas, though I won’t mention its name now – I don’t want to implicate anyone in this story.
One of the common forms of violence in Venezuelan cities is kidnapping. Interested in greater economic rewards, thieves are no longer content with snatching gold chains from the necks of naïve wanderers; nor are they so interested in demanding at gunpoint what a driver or a pedestrian has in their pocket. Kidnapping pays bigger dividends.
They can enter a house and take any person to demand a ransom. The person doesn’t have to be anyone rich or famous, it’s sufficient that they only have “a little.”
A few days ago, the sister of a good friend I went to visit outside of Caracas was driving in the center of that city, on her way to work. Let’s just say that her name is Anais.
At a corner, two cars appeared out of nowhere and blocked the road. Five or six individuals leaped out carrying rifles and pistols; they didn’t even bother to cover their faces with black stockings like you see in the movies.
They pulled the woman from her car (she didn’t dream of offering resistance) and took it and her with them. Fortunately they didn’t do anything to her; it’s not unusual for kidnap victims to be beaten or killed. This time Anais was lucky.
Fortunately, the car was insured, and within a few months my friend’s sister would have gotten either the same model car or the equivalent in cash; but the bureaucracy —which is not characteristic only of this “new” system of Chavez— would transform those months of waiting into painful financial blows for Anais, because she depends on her car to survive.
So, she didn’t think twice about speaking with some friend who, in turn —like in the movies— had another friend who “knew someone” connected to one of the many criminal rings there.
That other friend’s gang leader contact immediately notified the head of the gang that assaulted Anais. Two hours later she received a call: for 5,000 bolivars (about $1,200 USD) he would have her car returned.
Five thousand was too much for that type of ransom. Ok, they finally agreed on two thousand bolivars and the matter was resolved.
Anais has her car back. The long and annoying paperwork process of the insurance bureaucracy was avoided. But there is nothing that can assure her that in one week, a month, or two months, she won’t be snatched from her car again and asked to pay a higher ransom.