US/World News

Father, son freed in Venezuela; Jewish community pays ransom

(JTA) — A Jewish father and son abducted in Venezuela were freed days after the Jewish community paid a $400,000 ransom. Heavily armed men kidnapped the Orthodox Jews as they made their way to synagogue for morning prayers on Saturday, Dec. 26. “We have in our community people who are specialized in rescuing captives, and they know how to negotiate with kidnappers,” the son-in-law of a Chabad envoy in Caracas told the Behadrey Haredim news portal. “Such cases happen frequently here. Our community has a special fund designed to redeem captives.” The kidnappers had demanded a $1 million ransom, according to the CCN Es Noticias news portal. Cases of kidnappings for ransom have become most frequent in Venezuela. Foreigners – mainly Israelis – who come to the country are familiar with the situation and are cautious. Venezuela is home to some 9,000 Jews, down from some 25,000 in 1999. Many Jews left, mainly for Florida and Israel, due to a deteriorating financial and social climate, along with a growing antisemitic environment established under the Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro regimes.

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