QUITO – Two Ecuadorians kidnapped near the border with Colombia have been identified as Vanessa Velasco Pinargote and Oscar Efren Villacis Gomez, authorities said on Tuesday.
The couple had last contacted their family members on Wednesday, April 11, Interior Minister Cesar Navas said.
“At the moment, we know that they left Santo Domingo (northwest of Quito) on Wednesday and from there they were heading to the eastern province of Esmeraldas, to the canton of San Lorenzo,” he said.
“The last time they contacted their family by phone was on Wednesday night, while on Thursday night a text message was sent that is being analyzed because of the unusual way it was written,” the minister said.
Officials in Quito stressed that neither of the captives had any connection to the government or the security forces.
Earlier Tuesday, Navas presented a video to the press showing a man and woman calling on Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, to secure their liberation.
The video was obtained by the government via “a channel of communication with ‘Guacho,’” Navas said, referring to Walter Patricio “Guacho” Arizala Vernaza.
Arizala, who commands a unit of at least 50 men who decided not to accept the peace agreement that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group signed with the Colombian government, is suspected of murdering three members of a newspaper reporting team.
“We have children, we have families to see in Ecuador, we have nothing to do with this war,” Villacis, who was bound and had a rope around his neck, said in a video, which shows the couple guarded by armed men who have their backs to the camera.
The video was sent directly to the government by the kidnappers, unlike in the case of the abducted El Comercio team, where a video was provided to Colombian television.
Last Friday, Moreno confirmed that three employees of El Comercio newspaper had been killed.
Reporter Javier Ortega, 36, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were abducted on the Ecuador-Colombia border on March 26.
Officials in Ecuador and Colombia said the killings were ordered by Arizala.
Vanessa Velasco’s mother told EFE on Tuesday that she felt “torn apart” because of the news.
“How do I feel? Like a torn-apart mother,” was all that Adelaida Pinargote, 41, managed to express during a brief phone conversation in which she burst into tears, unable to answer any further questions regarding her daughter.