QUITO – This Monday marks one week since a journalism team from the Ecuadorean daily El Comercio went missing, abducted along the Ecuador-Colombia border, and they haven’t been heard from since.
The team, made up of reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segura, 60, had traveled from Quito to the northwest province of Esmeraldas to obtain accounts of the situation along the border, scene of attacks against Ecuadorean armed forces attributed to organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking.
Last Jan. 27, a car bomb blew up in front of the main police barracks in San Lorenzo canton in that province, wounding 28 people and causing extensive infrastructure damage.
After that attack, several others occurred in the border area, leaving a total of three Ecuadorean marines killed and at least 10 people wounded, with the same suspects considered the perpetrators of the crimes.
Due to the situation on the country’s northern border, the Ecuadorean government decided last Wednesday to extend the state of emergency en the cantons of San Lorenzo and Eloy Alfaro in Esmeraldas province, and announced the creation of a Border Security Council.
The Ecuadorean presidency is maintaining total secrecy about its negotiations with the kidnappers of the journalism team – all that is known is that they haven’t sought help.
Though the government has named no specific criminal group, the commander of the Colombian armed forces, Gen. Alberto Mejia, attributes the abduction to FARC dissidents.
Since the journalists went missing last Monday, groups of journalists, activists, all kinds of citizens and family members have kept daily vigils at points around the Andean country asking for the captives’ immediate release.
Numerous messages posted on social networks demand that the governments of Ecuador and Colombia protect the missing persons and consider their abduction an attack on freedom of the press.
The “nosfaltan3” (wemiss3) campaign has crossed borders and has won the support of media professionals around the world.