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December 06, 2011

Colombians hit the streets to protest kidnapping - but how many hostages are there?

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Tens of thousands of Colombians hit the streets today to protest the recent execution of four hostages who had been held by rebels for more than a decade. 

You can read about the march here, and you can read about the executions and one man's narrow escape here. 

Today's outpouring comes as many activists complain that the plight of the country's hostages is no longer on the national radar. That's probably a testament to how much safer Colombia has become. Take a look at the chart below to see just how grim things were in the1990s and early 2000s.

Even so, the government says there have been 146 kidnappings in the first five months of this year — that’s up 40 percent versus the same period in 2010. 

To complicate matters, the number of people still in captivity is a matter of debate.

In 2009, the department within the Ministry of Defense that tracks kidnapping cases said it had combed through more than 2,000 reports and determined that were 125 people still in captivity. Human rights groups and researchers at the time balked and accused the government of playing politics with the statistics. País Libre - a foundation dedicated to the issue - said the new administration has agreed to let it look through the reports again to come up with fresh figures. We'll keep you posted.

Kidnap data


 

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Inside South America is written by Jim Wyss, the South America bureau chief for the Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers.

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