QUITO – Ecuadorean Interior Minister Cesar Navas confirmed on Tuesday the abduction of three employees of Quito’s daily El Comercio in the province of Esmeraldas on the Colombian border.
They are thought to have been taken into that country by force but unharmed.
At a press conference in Government Palace, Navas said the newspaper’s three employees, apparently two journalists and their driver, “were kidnapped yesterday.”
“It occurred in the morning in Mataje parish of San Lorenzo canton in Esmeraldas province,” he said, adding that they have a record of the three going through a military checkpoint where “they were warned about the risk of traveling in that area.”
The minister said he assumes that those abducted “are in Colombia” and police are working to locate them based on that theory.
He added that after learning of the kidnapping, the country’s authorities met with El Comercio’s legal representatives, as well as with families of the supposed victims, whom they informed what happened and what being done about it.
Specialized units of the Ecuadorean police are working on the case, the minister said, adding that the government will not skimp on “any efforts to protect the lives” of the victims.
Without going into detail, he estimated that the captives “are well.”
“We can’t give further details because the investigation is ongoing, and also to protect our fellow citizens,” he said.
He also told reporters about the condemnation expressed by Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno, and his solidarity with the families of the kidnap victims.
Navas believes that of the attacks carried out over the past few weeks, eight were reprisals by organized crime and drug traffickers for the success of control operations executed by Ecuador’s armed forces.
“What we have to understand is where the threat comes from. It does not come from inside our territory. Our country has no drug crops or drug laboratories,” he noted in saying that Ecuador faces an asymmetrical menace from a “difficult enemy, but one that is not operating in our territory.”
Navas said that faced with these threats, the Ecuadorean armed forces remain on their own side of the border and repeated the request of his government to Colombia to guarantee security on its side.
“We’re going to repeat and review” with the press the rules for working in the area, the minister said, and asked journalists and people in general not to expose themselves to dangers and risks along the border.