BOGOTA – Cristo Jose Contreras, the 5-year-old son of the mayor of the Colombian city of El Carmen, was released on Tuesday in the strife-torn Catatumbo region, President Ivan Duque said.
“I just got off the phone with the mayor of El Carmen, Edwin Contreras, and his son Cristo Jose,” Duque said in a Twitter post. “We are happy that he’s back home.”
Local media published photographs showing the young child smiling and hugging his father.
Once the news of the rescue spread, locals flocked to the Contreras Arevalos home to welcome the child amid cheering and applause.
“Thank you, Colombia,” the child said when asked how he felt, summing the incident by saying, “I was stolen away.”
Gunmen kidnapped the boy on Oct. 3 when he was arriving home from school, a crime that spurred popular outrage throughout the country, as well as massive demonstrations demanding his release.
President Duque on Sunday visited the mayor of El Carmen, a city north of Santander province, to express his solidarity “father to father.”
A few illegal militias currently operate in the area of Catatumbo, including the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the People’s Liberation Army (EPL), as well as an assortment of gangs fighting for coca plantations and drug routes.
Both the ELN and the EPL denied authorship of the kidnapping, despite the fact that it is a common practice by both organizations.