• Short Summary

    In the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, a mounting wave of political kidnapping had brought tight security measures and the departure of many foreign business executives and their families.

  • Description

    In the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, a mounting wave of political kidnapping had brought tight security measures and the departure of many foreign business executives and their families.

    Kidnappings -- both political and criminal -- are continuing at an average of one a day. Between 1968 and 1972, there were only 25 recorded kidnapping in Argentina, but the figure soared to 48 in the first six months of 1973.

    Foreign embassies have strengthened their security, but the main target for terrorist groups has been the executives of foreign-based industrial concerns.

    Guerrillas kidnapped an American executive, Victor Samuelsson, Operations Manager of the Esso Company's oil refinery, on December 6 this year.

    Mr. Samuelson was the tenth foreign executive, and the fourth American, kidnapped by political groups in Argentina this year.

    He was lunching with other Esso executives in the refinery canteen at Company, 55 miles (90 km) northwest of Buenos Aires, when seven armed men hustled Mr. Samuelson into a waiting car. Across a wall they painted the initial E.R.P. -- standing for the Marxist People's Revolutionary Army, the most active of Argentina's leftwing guerrilla groups.

    The E.R.P. is also holding an Argentine Army colonel and an official of the Bank of London and South America. It demanded that Esso deliver a ransom of food, clothing and building materials worth 10 million dollars (four million sterling) to the Argentine poor, before it released Mr. Samuelsson. On Thursday (December 13), Esso agreed to meet the kidnapper's demands.

    The Ford Motor Company recently handed out one million dollars (400,000 sterling) worth of medical equipment, including an ambulance for each province in Argentina, following threats from the E.R.P. In late November, the guerrillas ambushed two local Ford employees -- one died later from gunwounds -- and threatened to kill Ford's American Director in Argentina.

    On October 22, the E.R.P. Kidnapped Herr kurt Smitt, the Argentina Regional Manager of Switzerland's Airline, Swissair. They dominated 10 million dollars (four million sterling) ransom for his release. Herr Smitt was released but Swissair would not say if it paid the money.

    A British executive working in Argentina, Mr. David Heywood, was kidnapped by guerrillas when he was returning home from work on September 21. They demanded 3-and-a-half-million dollars (GBP 1.2 Police arrested four people and recovered a ransom of 350,000 dollars (GBP 120,000 sterling).

    Earlier in September, the branch Chairman of the Dutch Phillips electrical firm, Mr. Jan J. van de Panne, was seized by kidnappers who criticised Philip's operation in Argentina. They asked for 500,000 dollars (GBP 200,000 sterling) as well as improved conditions for 1,500 workers at the Phillips plant and the release of 20 political prisoners. Mr. van de Panne was later released after payment of an unspecified sum.

    In fear of further kidnapping, five American companies began evacuating their executives from Argentina in the first two weeks of December. They included I.B.M. Chrysler, Ford, Cities Service Oil and St. Joseph's Mining. Foreign business officials in Buenos Aires were tight-lipped about the exodus, and declined to give any figures. Other American companies, notably Coca-Cola and Otis Elevator, evacuated their executives to neighbouring countries.

    In response, the Argentine government of President Juan Peron has offered to provide bodyguards for foreign businessmen. the government fears that continued guerrilla kidnappings will scare off foreign investment and cause a cutback in the activities of established foreign companies in Argentina.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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