QUITO – Offensive operations are not being conducted in the area along the border with Colombia where a three-man team from El Comercio newspaper was kidnapped last month, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Cesar Navas said on Wednesday.
“We want to deny that on the part of Ecuador, of our armed forces, of our National Police, offensive operations were conducted in the area,” Navas said, adding that the security forces were only staging “permanent control operations.”
Ecuador asked the Colombian government as soon as it learned of the kidnapping to “not execute operations that compromise the integrity of the three countrymen who have been kidnapped,” Navas said in a press conference.
The interior minister held the press conference after Colombian and Ecuadorian media outlets reported that the Oliver Sinisterra Front, an illegal armed group, said in a statement that the three El Comercio employees had been killed in military operations.
The reports have not been confirmed.
Navas said officials were trying to confirm the authenticity of the statement allegedly released by the front, which is under the command of Walter Patricio Artízala Vernaza.
The Oliver Sinisterra Front was part of the Daniel Aldana column of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The Colombian government reached a peace agreement with the FARC, which demobilized and transformed itself into a political party that uses the same acronym.
El Comercio reporter Javier Ortega, 36, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were abducted on the Ecuador-Colombia border on March 26 and their whereabouts is unknown.
On April 3, Colombia’s Canal RCN aired a video showing the three men, providing the first proof that they were still alive.
The 22-second video showed the kidnapped reporters saying that their lives were in the hands of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno because the kidnappers wanted to “exchange” them for three comrades “detained in Ecuador.”