Two Spanish businessmen kidnapped in Venezuela

Ransom demands on the rise in South American nation blighted by growing crime rate

Two retired Spanish businessmen have been kidnapped in Venezuela over the past several weeks in separate incidents that police believe is the work of the same gang dedicated to holding people for ransom.

The men, who have been residing in the South American nation for more than 30 years, were identified as Lino Núñez Alvarez, 73, who is originally from the Galician city of Ourense, and Gregorio Olivero García, 71, from the Canary Islands.

Núñez was kidnapped Friday from his apartment in the coastal town of Higuerote while Olivero was taken from his home in Guatire, outside the Venezuelan capital Caracas, on September 10.

Kidnapping of Spanish businessmen has increased over the past year. The Spanish consulate last year said it received more than 20 complaints of such incidents in Venezuela, but believes the number may be higher because not all cases are reported to the authorities.

In all, 1,150 kidnapping took place in Venezuela last year, according to the Citizens Security and Coexistence Research Institute (Incosec).

Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in the region. According to the country’s Interior Ministry, the murder rate is about 48 per 100,000 residents.