For decades, Latin America has been at the center of the global drug trade. It has also been its chief victim, as the black market narcotics industry has generated high rates of crime in most every country in the region. For example, kidnapping occurs more often in Latin America than in any other area of the world by far. Furthermore, 16 of the 20 countries in the world with the highest rate of homicide are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Fortunately, Argentina has been able to buck this trend to some extent. Although it should not be considered a low crime country, Argentina does experience significantly less criminal activity than other nations in Latin America. That is why it is regrettable that there have been reports of increasing numbers of kidnappings on Argentinian highways.

According to and La Nacion, there have been a series of kidnappings on the roads in and around Buenos Aires. Reportedly, three gangs known to operate in the area are conducting most of these crimes. While the situation poses a concern for visitors, most of the victims have been Argentine nationals, rather than persons from abroad. Even so, travelers should be mindful of this potential threat.

These kidnapping gangs generally find it easier to operate on isolated roadways at night or during hours of light traffic. They are also known to target flashier or more expensive automobiles. When a suitable vehicle is sighted, the kidnappers use their cars to box-in the victim or force him off the road. Once the car is immobilized, the criminals move in. Many of the victims have been wealthy Argentine and have included soccer players, pilots, and individuals connected with the government.

However, most of these abductions have neither been sophisticated nor long-term in nature. Most of the reported incidents can be classified as ‘express’ kidnappings. In this type of abduction, the victim is held for only a short period of time, often just a few hours. The abductee is escorted to banks and ATMs and forced to withdraw money until reaching his limit. In other instances, the victim is taken back to his home, which is subsequently robbed by the captors. There have also been cases when the kidnappers have called loved ones or coworkers and demanded that they forfeit all cash on hand in order to secure the victim’s release.

Although most abductees were not physically harmed during these crimes, there have been cases where violence was used. Indeed, many of Argentina’s criminals carry weapons, making it dangerous for victims of abduction to resist or attempt escape. Individuals wishing to gain more information about kidnapping avoidance should read the GlobalSecur article entitled Kidnapping Part IV: Avoidance.

While the recent incidents in Buenos Aries are disturbing, prospective visitors to the area should not be wholly deterred. Although crime in Argentina is a serious concern, the country has significantly less criminal activity than other nations in Latin America. Travelers planning on visiting the area in the near future should consult their organization’s security unit or private security experts. These professionals can apprise individuals of potential threats and formulate a safety and security plan. Taking modest measures such as these can significantly reduce a traveler’s chance of experiencing an unfortunate incident while abroad.