Sign up for PM Award Updates!

Spanish journalist believed held by Colombia guerrilla group

May 23, 2016

A journalist who has been missing in northeast Colombia appears to have been kidnapped by a leftist guerrilla group, the Spanish foreign minister and newspaper for which she works said Monday.

“The Spanish journalist and El Mundo correspondent in Colombia, Salud Hernandez-Mora, has been detained by guerrillas,” the Spanish daily announced online, citing Colombian military sources and saying she disappeared in the Catatumbo region. She was last seen on Saturday.

“The difficult-to-access area is controlled by the ELN,” it added, referring to the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group that has been involved in the country’s bloody half-century conflict.

Speaking in Brussels, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the government also believed Hernandez-Mora had been taken by the ELN.

Starting as a peasant uprising in the 1960s and drawing in various armed groups and gangs, the conflict in Colombia has killed more than 260,000 people, uprooted 6.6 million people and left a further 45,000 missing.

The government is closing in on a deal with the country’s biggest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and has only recently started peace negotiations with the ELN.

Hernandez-Mora, who works for the Colombian daily El Tiempo as well as Spain’s El Mundo, has lived in the South American country for many years, even acquiring Colombian nationality.

She was last seen Saturday in the town of El Tarra, according to a statement by Colombia’s defence ministry published Sunday.

El Mundo quotes a nun from the town as saying she saw the journalist Saturday, while she was covering a local demonstration over the disappearance of two children, who have since been found.

“I have ordered security forces to give priority to identifying the location of journalist @saludhernandezm,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on his Twitter account.

Hernandez-Mora is a prominent journalist in Colombia who knows Santos as well as his predecessor Alvaro Uribe.

Santos has staked his presidency on ending his country’s bloody conflict, considered the last major armed confrontation in the Western Hemisphere.

Inspired by the Cuban revolution, the ELN was founded in 1964, the same year the FARC launched its uprising.

Officials estimate the ELN currently has some 1,500 members and the FARC about 7,000.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.