“First we pick the person, like the owner of a bakery or a business owner, and then we follow him for two to three weeks and see where he lives, where he goes shopping, who’s with him, those kind of things,” Juan said as he casually scratched the ears of his black mutt. “Then the day comes and you do what you have to do. You ask for ransom — but you try to get it in less than 24 hours.”
One of the factors driving the spree is impunity. Juan described the police as a business expense rather than a real threat. He said the CICPC, Venezuela’s criminal and forensic police, were the most problematic. If they caught him, he said, he might have to pay an $8,000 bribe to be released.
“But the regular police, they charge a lot less,” Juan said. “Really, you just give them whatever and they will let you go.”