For the first time since their abduction March 26, two Ecuadorian journalists and their driver appeared on a video to deliver their captors’ demands. The three were kidnapped near the Colombian border while covering the story of the cross-border drug trafficking conflict that has intensified since January. The victims are employees of the Quito newspaper El Comercio.
The captors, believed to be part of the Oliver Sinisterra gang, are demanding the release of three suspected drug traffickers being held in Ecuadorian prisons. In addition, they want the Ecuadorian government to terminate a law enforcement cooperation agreement with Colombia.
Once part of the leftist revolutionary movement in southern Colombia, Oliver Sinisterra is today allegedly engaged in cocaine production and allied with Mexican drug cartels.
In the video believed to have been shot in Colombia, journalist Javier Ortega says that the fate of the three captives is in the hands of President Lenin Moreno.
Ecuador Interior Minister César Navas said the government has known about the video for several days and regretted that it had been released to the public. “What a pity that has been leaked because it compromises our negotiations which started shortly after the kidnapping. It is very difficult to resolve the situation if sensitive details are being broadcast on social media and in the news media,” he said.
The video was broadcast on the Colombian television channel RCN and appeared on a Facebook post.
In addition to Ortega, 32, the other captives are photographer Paúl Riva, 45, and their driver Efraín Segarra, 60.