A group of Colombian rebels active on the Ecuadorian border has sent a “proof of life” video of a kidnapped couple, the Ecuadorian government said, the second kidnapping by the group this month.
Two journalists and their driver were killed while being held by the group, made up of former fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebel group who refused to demobilize under a 2016 peace deal.
The journalists’ abduction and murder has badly shaken Ecuador, a country that until now has been unaccustomed to the drug-linked violence that has ravaged neighboring Colombia.
In the video, the couple, tied at the neck and hands, ask Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno to comply with their captors’ demands so they do not meet the same fate as the journalists.
“Mr. President, please help us, don’t let what happened to the journalists happen to us — we have children, we have families whom we visit in Ecuador... Give them what they want so that they release us,” pleads the man.
“Via a communication channel with Guacho we have received information... about a new kidnapping of two citizens,” Interior Minister Cesar Navas told journalists, referring to the alias used by Walter Artizala, the leader of the group.
“A proof of life video of a couple, whose names and nationality are unknown, arrived via this channel,” Navas said.
Guacho, who served as a rebel for 15 years in the now-defunct Farc movement, heads a group called the Oliver Sinisterra Front.
Navas said the group is demanding the release of captured members of the group, some of whom were detained in raids over the weekend.
Ecuador is offering a US$100,000 reward for information about Artizala and is conducting joint military operations with Colombia in the border area.
“They are cowards because they use human shields to blackmail the Ecuadorean people. They want to steal the peace we’ve had, but we won’t allow it,” said Navas.
On Monday President Moreno gave the group 10 days to surrender. Describing their abduction as some sort of “macabre game” by the rebels, Najas asked for help in identifying them.
Experts say the northwestern border zone, which is covered with dense jungle and crisscrossed by rivers leading into the Pacific, has become a sanctuary for drug traffickers. “They are cowards because they use human shields to blackmail the Ecuadorean people. They want to steal the peace we’ve had, but we won’t allow it”