Reporter and driver remain in captivity

Bogotá, May 21, 2002—Two newspaper reporters and their driver were kidnapped by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on May 16 in northern Colombia. According to local police, the rebels freed one of the reporters the following day.

Nidia Álvarez Mariño and Ramón Vásquez Ruiz of the Santa Marta­based daily Hoy Diario del Magdalena were abducted Thursday morning in Magdalena Department, said Mónica Pimienta, an editor at the paper. Álvarez was freed unharmed the following morning, but the rebels continue to hold Vásquez and the driver, Vladimir Revolledo Cuisman, Pimienta told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The reporters were traveling to a town south of Santa Marta to cover stories on a local court case and on satanic cults when they unknowingly drove into a rebel roadblock near Ciénaga—about 420 miles (670 kilometers) from the capital, Bogotá.

The rebels kidnapped nine other people in addition to the reporters and the driver. According to a spokesperson for the Magdalena Departmental Police, all but four of the captives have been released.

“We demand the immediate release of Ramón Vásquez Ruiz, as well as his driver and the other captives,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “By kidnapping journalists, the FARC is drawing public attention to its own abuses.”

Pimienta said the department’s human rights ombudsman is talking with the rebels in an attempt to free the remaining captives. It is not known if the rebels are asking for ransom.

Fighters from both the FARC and the smaller leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) abduct hundreds of people in roadblocks for ransom to fund their insurgencies. The rebels are fighting the government and a right-wing paramilitary army in a civil conflict that began 38 years ago.