301: Zorka Martinovich – We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists?

In this episode, retired agent Zorka Martinovich reviews the extensive administrative support provided by the FBI’s Critical Incident Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) when a Cuban-American businessman was kidnapped for ransom in Panama by the FARC, a Colombian terrorist organization.

She explains the behind-the-scenes negotiations made by the FBI and State Department officials to assist families seeking to secure the release of US citizens held hostage by terrorists.

Zorka served in the FBI for over 21 years. Her first assignment was in the Milwaukee Division where she worked white collar crime matters, served as the Employee Assistance Coordinator, was part of a national Critical Incident Stress Management team. While in Milwaukee, she completed the rigorous undercover agent course, and trained as a crisis/hostage/kidnap negotiator.

Special Agent (Retired)

Zorka Martinovich

11/1996 – 02/2018






“The vast majority of kidnappings that happen of U. S. citizens, and nowadays we’re talking probably 100 to 150 a year, whether they be criminal or terrorist, are oftentimes about money, about a ransom. The kidnap victim is a commodity and they’re looking to get something of value for that person.”—Retired Agent Zorka Martinovich

She was selected to the FBI’s elite Critical Incident Negotiation Team where she deployed on behalf of the program to support major operations outside the continental U.S., overseas kidnaps, and National Security Special Events and was later promoted as a Supervisory Special Agent in the CNU where she spent the last 13 years of her FBI career.

Her operational experience included working with families, employers, government representatives, foreign colleagues, and the military to safely resolve 100+ hostage, kidnap and crisis negotiation matters domestically and internationally, resulting in her recognition as a subject matter expert.

Zorka served on the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group to shape US policy on hostage response.

As part of the FBI Academy adjunct faculty, Zorka has taught extensively in the law enforcement community throughout the world and designed a course on Hostage Survival taught to FBI personnel deploying overseas for over a decade. Based on her foundational communication, assessment, and negotiation skills, she has provided training in a myriad of areas, including the FBI’s undercover and leadership development programs. Additionally, Zorka is a fluent Spanish speaker.

Since retiring from the FBI, she has continued presenting at conferences and consulting on matters relating to leadership, kidnap, hostage, and crisis response.

The following links are to articles about the Cecilio Juan Padron kidnapping/hostage case and how the US negotiates with terrorists for the safe return of victims held overseas:

ABC News – 4/29/2008: FARC Accused of Kidnapping American

San Diego Union-Tribune – 3/3/2009: Cuban-American businessman freed from captors

Colombiareports.com – 7/28/2010: FARC guerrilla extradited to US for Panama kidnapping

Pursuit Magazine – 9/22/2022: HOW TO NEGOTIATE WITH KIDNAPPERS

You might also want to listen to these case reviews showing how the FBI’s CNU advocates for the safe return of kidnapped victims from terrorists and criminals:

Episode 137: Mark Thundercloud – Negotiating Philippine Kidnapping, Captain Phillips

Episode 197: Nancy Savage – Robert Levinson, Iranian Hostage RIP

Episode 038: Toni Chrabot – Kidnapped Grandma, Hostage Negotiations

Zorka has taught hostage negotiations to the law enforcement community throughout the world. Here she is outside Scotland Yard in the UK.
Colombia extradited FARC guerrilla Roque Orobio Lobon to the U.S. for prosecution for his role in the kidnapping of American citizen Cecilio Padron.












Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.

1 Comment

  1. […] To learn more about the behind-the-scenes negotiations made by U.S. officials to assist families seeking to secure the release of loved ones held hostage by terrorists listen to FBI Retired Case File Review Episode 301: Zorka Martinovich – We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists? […]


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