- The Lima syndrome got its name after a location of the first hostage situation of this type; it happened in Lima, Peru, in 1996.
- The reasons for the development of this syndrome are the profound feeling of guilt, along with the continuous re-evaluation of the situation by the kidnapper.
- Lima syndrome comes with a paradox of its own; the kidnappers start connecting emotionally to the hostages and treating them as is they are not actually held in captivity.
Lima syndrome happens in a hostage situation when kidnappers start to develop feelings for the hostages. It can be read as a direct opposite of the Stockholm syndrome, where hostages empathize with their abductors.
The Lima Crisis
This syndrome is named after a city in Peru, Lima. In 1996, a division of the Tupac Amaru revolutionary movement took several hundred hostages located in the Japanese embassy. All of the hostages were diplomats, high government officials, members of the military, and important business owners.
Within a few days of the crisis, the members of the Tupac Amaru group started releasing hostages, allowing most of them to go free. The group lost all possible leverage they had in the negotiations, releasing even the about-to-be president of Peru. The crisis lasted for a couple of months when finally, all hostages were released in action done by the commando squad from Peru. Only one hostage was killed during the whole crisis, and it happened when the commandos pushed the building. What caused this situation, and how did hundreds of people survive this deadly situation?
What Causes The Lima Syndrome?
The syndrome can be explained if we reverse the explanation of the Stockholm syndrome. The end result is practically the same, but the person, or a group, responsible for the change of outcome, changes to kidnappers. Speaking generally, the Lima syndrome is caused by a deep feeling of guilt, that is fueled by constant re-evaluating happening in the mind of a kidnapper. That creates a situation where the abductors become indecisive, and the previous moral beliefs that led them to kidnap in the first place start to shatter.
Kidnapping situations are usually very unpredictable, and things can change rapidly. Any change in the kidnapping environment can affect the kidnappers and make them change their plans.
This happens even more if the kidnapping is a first for the perpetrators, or they were pushed into a crime they did not want to commit. Also, if the abductors are doing the crime when going through personal issues, especially of the financial kind, it leads to the change of events. When the switch happens, and the Lima syndrome prevails, the abductors start developing real feelings for the people being held in captivity.
Emotional Shift Leads To A Paradox
In those cases, the kidnappers avoid hurting the victims altogether, and they are expressing concern about the emotional and physical needs of the victims. As they put their emotional guard down, the kidnappers share their own personal life experiences with the hostages, expressing deep emotions and desires. This complete shift, when the kidnappers start treating hostages like they are not actually captured, is a paradox that occurs with the Lima syndrome.
This is not so surprising when we look at the syndrome from a standpoint that focuses on basic human needs. Even when faced in such extreme conditions, like a hostage situation certainly is, people strive to connect with people on an emotional level. On a human level, that is the underlying quality of both victims and perpetrators.