What Is Lima Syndrome?

lima-syndrome Credit: Jeffrey Coolidge/The Image Bank/Getty Images

According to the Inter Press Service, Lima syndrome is a psychological state that is comparable to Stockholm syndrome. Instead of a hostage identifying with their captor, the captor begins to identify and sympathize with the hostage. The term was coined by Peruvian psychiatrist Mariano Querol, who was kidnapped for 18 days in July of 1996.

Querol was kidnapped for ransom by a neighbor of one of his children and a team of three other men. They claim to have kidnapped him because they were deeply in debt. While being held captive, Querol read the novel "News of a Kidnapping" with the men. He believed that his relationship with them kept them from killing him during the long period of captivity. Querol was eventually freed when the ransom was paid by his family.

The syndrome is also associated with a hostage incident that took place in Lima in December of 1996. Members of a revolutionary movement invaded the Japanese embassy in the city of Lima, during a celebration. Initially, the captors took hundreds of hostages. However, most of these hostages were released in the first few hours of the standoff; this was likely due to the captors developing sympathy towards them.