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Colombia Captures ELN Chief Responsible for Kidnapping Canadian and Peruvian Citizens

By Dialogo
July 10, 2013

Colombian authorities captured a chief of the communist insurgency ELN, who was allegedly responsible for the kidnapping of a Canadian natural, two Peruvian and three Colombian citizens in January, President Juan Manuel Santos reported on July 8.

“An ELN criminal, aka Mario Solano, has been captured. He is second in command in the ‘Darío Ramírez’ front. He was responsible for the kidnapping of the Peruvian and Canadian citizens in south Bolívar (department),” Santos said.

“He directed the operation, but is now in custody,” he added.

The head of state made this statement to the press in the city of Medellín (400 km northeast of Bogotá), after a security meeting with local authorities.

Of the five original hostages, 47-year-old Canadian engineer Jernoc Wobert is the only one to remain in captivity under the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s second largest guerrilla group, with 2,500 members.

The two Peruvian and three Colombian citizens were released on January 18, one month after having been kidnapped in a rural area of Norosí municipality in Bolívar, during a raid perpetrated against multinational Braewal Mining Corporation’s camp.

President Santos, whose government is holding peace negotiations with the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Cuba, has demanded the ELN release Wobert to allow a possible peace talk.

“If the ELN eventually decides to take part (in the peace process) and for us to decide if they can be part of it, they must liberate the kidnapped hostages, especially the Canadian citizen,” Santos said on May 9.

The president did not give any details about how and where the guerrilla was captured.

Through a statement released on their website on May 8, the ELN claimed that Santos’ government “is not making any efforts for the multinational Braewal Mining Corporation to return the four mining titles they took away from the communities in the area of Serranía de San Lucas.”

Although the Canadian national is still with the ELN, the guerrillas urged the government to “start an unconditional dialogue between the contending parties to mitigate the impact of war” on July 5, in a message signed by its top leader Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista.