Are Ecuadorean journalists held hostage in Colombia?

April 6, 2018

April, 4 2018 (Colombia Reports)

Two Ecuadorean journalists and their driver who were kidnapped in the north of their country last week appear to be held hostage in Colombia. But this is denied by the country’s defense ministry.

The journalists of newspaper El Comercio and their driver were kidnapped on March 26 in Esmeraldas, an Ecuadorean province on the border with Colombia.

Colombian television network RCN on Tuesday aired a proof of life video in which hostages laid out their captors’ demands that would allow their “return to Ecuador safe and sound.”

Colombia’s Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, however, told local media that “we do not have any information that they are on Colombian territory.”

Ecuador’s interior minister, Cesar Navas, contradicted Villegas. “You can hear clearly that they say ‘return to Ecuador’,” according to the official.

The family members of the victims condemned RCN for making the proof of life video public and urged Colombian authorities to help secure the safe return of the hostages.

The journalists were kidnapped by the “Oliver Sinisterra Front,” a rogue guerrilla group that is led by “Guacho,” an Ecuadorean former member of the FARC, a guerrilla group that largely demobilized last year.

Guacho and approximately 500 dissident FARC members control much of the drug trafficking activities in the border region. The group has violently opposed a peace process with the FARC.

According to the hostages, their kidnappers demand the release of three imprisoned members and the end of a bilateral counter-terrorism program.

The Ecuadorean government told El Comercio, the hostages’ employer, that it had already seen the proof of life video. Navas would not respond to the demands.