Beware of ‘Express Kidnapping’ in Managua

May 15, 2009

Dear Nica Times:

Let this be a warning if you’re traveling to Nicaragua. During Semana Santa I visited Nicaragua to see some family and friends and visit INTUR in Managua to inquire about moving my business there. For the record, I’m not a callow traveler. I am a professional tour guide and generally savvy of my surroundings. However I let my guard down for a moment in Managua.

On Saturday April 11, around 7 p.m., I was walking to my hotel. It is located in a relatively safe area of the city called Alta Gracia. I noticed a taxi parked curbside with the rear right door open. Two men in their mid-twenties stood nearby and as I was about to pass they lunged at me.

One of them pulled my backpack away which was tucked under my right arm. My attention was drawn to the one brandishing a knife and demanding money. I immediately sensed that this was more serious than a grab-and-run robbery.

They pushed me to the ground where my head hit the curb but I remained conscious. I attempted to disarm the assailant as he thrust the knife towards my throat. I missed his wrist and caught the blade instead, sustaining cuts on my middle finger and the web between my thumb and index finger.

At that point I managed to stand up and fight for my life. We started exchanging blows and I connected with an upper cut fist to his groin. At that point both suspects fled in the taxi (a newer model white taxi with a black & yellow checkered stripe).

During this time, which probably only lasted a couple of minutes but seemed longer, I was shouting for help, but to no avail.

I then walked to my hotel, which was less than 50 meters around the corner. The desk clerk called the police, who said that I should wait for them. It was decided to first seek medical treatment; since I was feeling faint and still bleeding.

Thanks to a fellow U.S. citizen and his Nicaraguan wife, I was driven to Hospital Salud Integral, a nearby private clinic. I received immediate and professional treatment for a minor concussion, contusions to the back of my head and above my eye, abrasions on my back and 7 stitches in my hand.

Afterwards we drove back to the hotel and learned that the police had arrived while I was at the clinic. The couple and a staff member from the hotel accompanied me to the District Three police station.

There I related what occurred and presented them the knife used in the crime. They said that it would be fingerprinted and placed into evidence.

On Monday morning I went to the U.S. Embassy to get a temporary passport. I was informed by an embassy official that tourists are frequently being targeted for “express kidnapping.” They abduct you then drive you around and make you use an ATM/credit card(s) to extract money from the machines. Supposedly they’ll let you go afterwards…I seriously doubt this.

In retrospect the two thugs probably followed me, parked the taxi ahead, and opened the door with the intention of forcing me inside. The word on the street from neighbors is that one of them was recently deported from the U.S. In my opinion these guys meant business and had no compunction about inflicting great bodily harm.

I was not about to go anywhere without a fight. I believe that once they get you on their turf, they have the advantage and will probably kill you there. I consider myself neither a hero nor a fool. However as a former martial artist I made a decision to defend myself and feel extremely grateful to be alive with God’s protection.

This could have happened anywhere. I hold no animosity towards the good people of Nicaragua. The point is that the world has become dangerous these days. Be heedful of your surroundings wherever you are.

Erik Shiozaki

Sarchí, Costa Rica

 

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