Quito, April 13 (EFE). – The Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, confirmed today in Quito the murder of the three members of the news crew kidnapped on March 26 in the province of Esmeraldas, border with Colombia.
“This message is for all Ecuadorians: With deep sorrow, I regret to report that after twelve hours of the established deadline, we have not received proof of life and sadly, we have information confirming the murder of our fellow countrymen,” the Ecuadorian president said during massive press conference today in Quito.
He stressed that “beyond the efforts we have made, it has been confirmed that these criminals appear to never have had the will to deliver them safe and sound, and it is very likely that all what they wanted was to buy time.”
Moreno also announced that operations resumed on the border with Colombia and offered a reward for what he called the “narco-terrorist, alias Guacho,” leader of the group that kidnapped and murdered El Comercio’s news crew.
He said they included the “narco-terrorist alias Guacho” on the list of “Ecuador’s most wanted” and offered a reward of US$100,000 for information leading to his capture in Ecuador or Colombia.
He also announced various security measures, including declaring as a security zone the border area with Colombia, and increasing military and police controls in order to carry out “coordinated actions” in the border area.
Meanwhile he announced contacts with international organizations such as the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross in order to “locate and repatriate the bodies” of the abducted Ecuadorians.
“We are in mourning, but we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated, today more than ever I ask the country for unity, for peace,” he said.
And he called for unity before pointing out that “under no circumstances this means a will to limit freedom of expression.” “Do not stop criticizing,” he requested to the media, “we know how to admit our mistakes and all this will allow us to recognize if there have been any.”
“The people forgive when mistakes are made, but not when it is being lied to, we will not lie to the Ecuadorian people,” he added.
The journalist Javier Ortega (36 years old), the photographer Paúl Rivas (45 years old) and the driver Efraín Segarra (60 years old) were kidnapped in the Mataje area, in the province of Esmeraldas, bordering with Colombia when they were reporting for the newspaper El Comercio on the growing insecurity in the area since January.
According to communications that have reached Colombian media and Ecuadorian foundations, their kidnapping and murder has been attributed, and self-claimed, to the group “Oliver Sinisterra” -under investigation- led by a dissident of the FARC that responds to the nickname of “Guacho.”
At 10.50 local time today (15.50 GMT) expired the deadline given last night by the president of Ecuador for the kidnappers of the news crew to give proof of life of the captives.