Colombian rebels try to justify kidnapping of Luis Díaz’s father

November 13, 2023  –Colombians have reacted with outrage after the leader of the Colombian rebels, which held the father of Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz hostage, tried to justify his kidnapping.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) said it had to resort to kidnapping for ransom because it was “poor”.

The group has been engaged in peace talks for almost a year.

The kidnapping of Luis Díaz’s father, an amateur football coach, has cast doubts on its commitment to the talks.

The footballer’s parents, Luis Manuel Díaz and Cilenis Marulanda, were seized at gunpoint on 28 October in his hometown of Barrancas, in the northern La Guajira province.

The kidnappers abandoned Ms Marulanda in a car hours later as Colombia’s security forces, members of the military and police, closed in on the kidnappers.

But the rebels held 58-year-old Luis Manuel Díaz for 12 days before releasing him to a delegation composed of officials from the United Nations and the Catholic Church.

ELN rebel commander Antonio García has stood firm on the ELN’s position on kidnappings since Luis Manuel Díaz’s release.

The rebel commander insisted that kidnappings for ransom were not a breach of the ceasefire his group had signed up to, which came into force in August. Mr García has previously asserted that the targeting of the popular footballer’s father was an “error”.

“There is no agreement in which the ELN has committed to abstaining from financial operations, including depriving someone of their freedom for economic reasons,” he wrote in a statement published on social media.

ELN is a “poor organisation” and does not resort to drug smuggling to finance itself, Mr García claims.

He adds that in order to finance its operations all of the rebel group’s units are under orders to “carry out military operations to raise funds”.

The rebel commander then blames the Colombian government for not providing “a solution” for the ELN’s financing and accuses it of trying to “strangle the ELN financially”.

The government has not commented publicly on the statement, but it has caused outrage across the country, where it has been described as “cynical” and “infamous”.

Commenters on social media took particular offence at Mr García’s claim that his rebel group was “poor like the majority of Colombians, and we’re not ashamed of that”.

Some called on the rebels to “do an honest day’s work” instead of extorting and kidnapping hardworking Colombians.

Others demanded that the peace talks be halted until the group agrees to stop abducting people.

Five days passed before the ELN rebel group admitted that it had abducted the local football coach, stating on 4 November that one of its units held him.

Though the guerrilla group’s leadership ordered his immediate release, Mr Díaz was not freed until 9 November.

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