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Ecuador News

Drug gang refuses to turn over bodies of murdered journalists; Capture of ‘El Guacho’ is priority, Ecuador and Colombia say

The Óliver Sinisterra Front issued a statement Monday saying it has stopped efforts to return the bodies of three Ecuadorian journalists. The front, which controls drug production and trafficking operations in southwest Colombia, has taken responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of the journalists working for the Quito newspaper, El Comercio.

Friends and family of the kidnap victims at a memorial in Quito.

“We have taken the decision to suspend any type of humanitarian activity in relation to delivery of the bodies of the journalists,” the statement said. “At this point we cannot accept the security measures being offered by the government,” it continued.

The International Red Cross has agreed to recover the bodies once their location is known and says it is awaiting further instructions. “The ICRC has taken note of the front’s position, expressed in a statement made today, but remains alert to new developments. Once we are given the location of the bodies, we will retrieve them and return them to their families in Ecuador.”

The bodies are believed to somewhere in Nariño Department, Colombia, possibly in the city of Tumaco, which is said to be under the control of the Sinisterra organization. Earlier, the Colombian government insisted that the journalists were being held and were murdered in Ecuador but President Juan Santos admitted Saturday that the captivity and killing took place in Colombia.

On Monday, the ministers of defense and foreign affairs of Ecuador and Colombia met in Quito, saying they support the efforts to recover the bodies but will not call off the current offensive against the drug traffickers. “We support the efforts of the Red Cross and believe it is the inalienable right of families of the victims to bury their loved ones,” said Ecuador Defense Minister Patricio Zambrano. “On the other hand, we are committed to ridding our two countries of the criminals who have carried out this and many more crimes against our people.”

Speaking Monday in Manabí Province, President Lenin Moreno said the cross-border police and military action is intended to restore peace to the region of northwest Ecuador and southwest Colombia. “To accomplish this, we must press the fight against the cartel and defeat and capture those responsible for killing Ecuadorian citizens. We will end this terror and bring El Guacho to justice.”