Ecuador Mourns Deaths of Three Kidnapped Reporters
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno has confirmed the murders of three members of a journalism team who were kidnapped last month at the Ecuador-Colombia border.
Over the weekend, President Moreno confirmed their deaths via Twitter: “With deep pain I lament to inform that the assassination of our compatriots is confirmed. I have arranged immediate action. The country is in mourning.”
On March 26, Paúl Rivas, a photographer aged 45; Javier Ortega, a journalist aged 32; and Efraín Segarra, a driver aged 60, were kidnapped in the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas.
All three worked for El Comercio, an Ecuadorian local newspaper based in Quito.
The group responsible for the murders is the Frente Oliver Sinisterra, a dissident faction of the former guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) or FARC.
The rebel group has been linked to drug trafficking activity and occupies the Ecuadorian and Colombian border and surrounding areas.
Earlier this week, the Colombian news channel RCN leaked a 22 second video, in which the three journalists appear on camera with chains around their necks, echoing the demands of their captors.
“Mr. President Lenín Moreno, our lives are in your hands,” said Ortega in the video.
In exchange for returning the journalists, the Frente Oliver Sinisterra demanded the release of three of their unidentified members and the annulment of an anti-terrorist agreement between Ecuador and Colombia.
President Moreno has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of ‘El Gaucho,’ one of the leaders of the rebel group. ‘El Guacho’ has also been placed on Ecuador’s Most Wanted list.
Moreno has additionally ramped up security along the northern part of Ecuador-Colombia border along with asking the International Red Cross and the Catholic Church to help locate and repatriate the bodies of the journalists.
Various countries including Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, the U.S. and Jamaica have expressed their support and sympathy.
Prime Minister Holness of Jamaica stated: “I express Jamaica’s solidarity and sympathies to the media community, people, and Government of Ecuador on the tragic murder of three Ecuadorian journalists recently.”
Pope Francis also expressed his condolences: “I pray for them, and their families and I am close to the dear Ecuadorian people, encouraging them to go forward, united and peaceful, with the help of the Lord and of His Most Holy Mother.”