Leftist kidnappers demand money, coverage for reporter’s release

Bogotá, May 24, 2002–
The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have demanded that a newspaper in northern Colombia pay the equivalent of US$250,000 and publish a four-page communiqué to secure the release of a reporter and another employee who were kidnapped last week, the newspaper’s director said yesterday.

Ulilo Acevedo, founder and director of Hoy Diario del Magdalena, said he and the other editors still haven’t decided whether to submit to the demands. Acevedo fears that a rival right-wing paramilitary army could retaliate against the daily newspaper for publishing the communiqué.

The FARC are believed to have taken reporter Ramón Vásquez Ruiz and driver Vladimir Revolledo Cuisman into the vast Sierra Nevada Mountains after kidnapping them at a rebel road block on May 16. Reporting intern Nidia Álvarez Mariño, who was abducted along with the two men, was released unharmed the following day.

The newspaper received the communiqué on Sunday, May 19, said Acevedo. He also told CPJ that the pamphlet analyzes the current political situation in Colombia and lambastes the paramilitary army, which has been fighting against the rebels alongside government troops for the last 38 years.

An editor and the manager of the company that owns the newspaper have each spoken with separate FARC members by telephone regarding the demands, Acevedo said. The newspaper is based in the Caribbean coastal city of Santa Marta, Magdalena Department.