BOGOTA – A Swiss citizen and a Brazilian who were kidnapped in March by FARC dissidents in the southwestern Colombian department of Cauca were rescued by the army on Thursday and transferred to Bogota.
“Thanks to the work of the Unified Action Group for Personal Liberty, the Swiss citizen Daniel Max Guggenheim (…) and the Brazilian citizen Jose Ivan Albuquerque Garcia, returned to freedom,” said the army in a statement.
Guggenheim and Albuquerque were held captive in a house in Corinto until found by soldiers who also rescued their pets: two Pomeranian dogs.
The two foreigners, who were traveling through various areas of the Colombian Pacific when they were kidnapped, will be handed over to the embassies of their countries.
They said they were kidnapped by two men about 15 kilometers from Corinto on their way to the town of La Plata, in the southern department of Huila. It was the shortest route, which they had planned to take considering the travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus quarantine.
“There were two routes, but the faster one was Pereira-Florida-Corinto, and then we crossed the mountain to La Plata… we took the shortest one, and about 15 kilometers after Corinto… the kidnappers arrived,” Guggenheim said.
He said the men, who were riding motorcycles, approached them with guns and took their belongings after threatening them, saying that they had arrived “at the cemetery.”
“Then they took us to a house where they locked us in a room for four days. People from the FARC group came and asked us what we were doing here and what we could give them to make a quick exit,” he added.
Guggenheim offered to give them 700,000 pesos (about $186) that he had in cash and more money if they took him to an ATM, an offer that was rejected by one of the kidnappers who demanded 30 million pesos.
“I only had $3,600(…) and I said we would have to talk to the family, but they didn’t want to and left us in that room for two more days,” he said.
According to him, the kidnappers contacted his family on three occasions and went so far as to request up to 1 billion pesos for the release.
“After the third call they took us to faraway and abandoned places. We were in 11 places where they kept us in cabins, very cold. Very sad,” he said.
Guggenheim said that while in captivity they were given food and not mistreated but the kidnapping affected them psychologically.
“It has given me nightmares, I lost all my appetite, but we survived. For a month and a half we couldn’t talk to the family, it was hard,” he added. “Thanks a million to Colombia, I love the country and in spite of everything I have nothing against it.”
In the rescue operation, in which army troops joined the Technical Investigation Corps from the Office of the Attorney General, a member of the FARC dissident group Dagoberto Ramos Mobile Column, which operates in that area of the country, was captured.
The subject, who was supposedly in charge of the security of the two hostages, tried to flee during the military operation in which the uniformed personnel seized communication equipment.
In the troubled department of Cauca, violence decreased following the government’s peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, but the calm was short-lived because dissidents from that guerrilla group, such as the Dagoberto Ramos Mobile Column, began to operate in the region, fighting with drug gangs over control of territory.