At least 39,058 people were kidnapped over a period of 40 years in Colombia, or an average of nearly 1,000 cases per year, according to a report released Thursday in Bogota.
The document said abductions occurred nationwide between 1970-2010, with cases reported in 1,006 of Colombia’s 1,102 municipalities.
The study was conducted by the National Center for Historical Memory and consulting and research firm Cifras & Conceptos, which documented 39,058 kidnapping victims.
According to the report, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the Andean nation’s largest guerrilla insurgency, was confirmed as being responsible for 37 percent of the kidnappings.
The FARC is currently engaged in peace talks in Havana with President Juan Manuel Santos’ government.
A smaller rebel organization, the Army of National Liberation, or ELN, accounted for 30 percent of the total, followed by criminal gangs (20 percent), others (9 percent) and paramilitary groups (4 percent).
Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo, who was on hand for the presentation of the report, said it was the “most important database on this crime in Colombia” because it focused on the victims and took a psychosocial approach.
Carrillo said kidnapping reached its pinnacle between 1995 and 2004, when guerrillas used it to pressure the authorities and as a means of funding their operations, and was an element in the “degradation” of Colombia’s decades-old armed conflict.
A total of 84 percent of the abductions were for economic ends, while 12 percent were politically motivated and 4 percent were carried out for other reasons.
In preparing the study, the researchers compiled data from officials sources such as the National Police, the now-defunct DAS security service, the Attorney General’s Office and the courts, as well as from press reports and other publications.
In most of the kidnapping incidents (59 percent), the victims spent between one and 30 days in captivity, while in 9 percent of the cases the ordeal lasted more than one year.
People working in public administration and defense were most affected by this crime, accounting for 19.3 percent of all the victims.
Police or soldiers, whom the FARC and ELN describe as prisoners of war, made up half of the total held captive from that sector.