Kidnappings and other crime have infiltrated every aspect of daily life in Venezuela, especially the capital, Caracas, which was recently ranked the world's third most violent city.
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German Garcia-Velutini, a banker, was kidnapped in Caracas and held for 11 months in 2009. Now, he says, he is imprisoned by his bodyguards and feels free only when he is out of the country.
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Two men participate in a kidnapping drill in an intensive self-defense course at the School of Personal Protection in Caracas. In 2011, there were 1,150 reported kidnappings in Caracas alone. It's widely believed that the vast majority of kidnappings aren't reported at all — in large part because many victims believe their kidnappers are police.
German Garcia-Velutini got into his car and left work one day. It took him 11 months to get home.
Kidnappers had nabbed the Venezuelan banker. His abduction is part of a problem that's been getting worse every year for the past decade in Venezuela, which belongs to a region riddled with crime and the most violent cities in the world.
Gracia-Velutini tells his story at an outdoor table at a hotel in Caracas, the capital, with a view of a mountainside that climbs into the clouds.
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. We're going to get a glimpse from the front lines of the civil war in Syria now. That war is expected to be the focus of peace negotiations, in the coming weeks. The U.S. is pressing for those talks after brutal fighting, fighting that's begun to spread to neighboring countries.
The international community talks of arming Syria's rebels against President Bashar Assad, but in the capital many people still hope the rebels will lose.
That's the thinking we found around a Muslim shrine in Damascus, a tribute to the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. She lived centuries ago, but a Damascus doctor we met spoke of her in the present tense.
The Ummayyid Mosque in Damascus has been a mosque for around 1,400 years. It sits in the center of a city where many people are struggling to live normal lives amid war.
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A child plays in a dusty courtyard of half-finished apartment buildings, now housing refugees, in a suburb of Damascus. The complex is deemed safe because artillery has landed across the street but not yet here.