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)
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: