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Employee Safety in Global Hotspots

Employee Safety in Global Hotspots

What risks do employees face in a sour global economy? What countries pose a growing threat of kidnapping for ransom? Is Columbia safer than Mexico? Insights from a former FBI hostage negotiator.

Now sometimes when you put pressure on crime in one area, it simply moves to a different area.

Some of the Columbian kidnappers quit, and some are in jail. Of the others, some moved. So it's on the rise in Venezuela and Ecuador. In Venezuela, Chavez isn't making the infrastructure any more effective; he's not using domestic law enforcement to police the country.

What about Mexico or elsewhere?

Mexico? You have to hand it to the Mexicans for covering up a massive kidnapping problem. I recently had a conversation with the head of security for an international company based in Mexico; he tried to tell me, "Kidnapping, it's mostly criminal on criminal" - which is nonsense.

They're diminishing the problem, trying to keep the larger world from criticizing them. As critical as human rights groups are of governments, they're not fans of kidnapping either.

So it's getting worse and worse all the time. Tremendous amounts of legitimate businessmen are leaving that region.

In the Philippines, at the end of the Burnham-Sobero kidnapping case [ed: 2001-2002], the response of the Philippine and US governments really sort of took their kidnapping infrastructure apart, left the Abu Sayyaf in somewhat of a shambles. They began to move toward bombings at that time. But that's run its course and they're getting back into it, starting with locals. I think it's a matter of time before they are looking for Westerners again.

Are there other potential threats to employee safety in economic troubles?

The other thing that may be a security concern for companies is more workplace violence. That's what happens when people start to get laid off. If they fail to calculate the negative impact on their workforce as they lay them off, they're probably looking at an increase in potential workplace violence.

I know one company in particular that tried to close a plant in France, and failed to gauge the impact on the small town nearby. Protestors took over the plant, and they had to spend extra money - massively - to retake the plant. They could have headed this off with a little more thought; maybe commit to helping the people who are being laid off, helping the community find an economic replacement for the plant. Civil unrest will likely end up costing you more. It's more expensive to do it over than to do it right in the first place.

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