Colombian Oil Workers Released by ELN

By Dialogo
August 15, 2012

Two female employees of oil companies working in eastern Colombia and kidnapped on July 24 by guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN), were freed and turned in to delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic Church, on August 13, said a spokeswoman.

Maria Rivera, from AFP news agency, said that “the two women were found in good health and should be arriving this afternoon [August 15] (to the town of) Saravena (Arauca),” where were forcibly taken from their homes by armed men on July 24, .

Suspected members of the Eastern war front, the ELN, which is the second largest guerrilla group in Colombia, handed the women over to the humanitarian mission.

One of those released is environmental engineer Gina Uribe, who works for the Canadian subsidiary of the Lavalin Group, Itansuca (SNC), which was contracted to do work for the Bicentennial Oil Pipeline being constructed in the east.

The other woman is journalist Elida Parra, who serves as managing consultant with the local community outreach and also works with the Bicentennial Oil Pipeline.

A statement issued by the ICRC shortly after the announcement of their release, said: “From the day they fell into the hands of the ELN, we were awaiting the fate of Elida and Gina and kept contact with their families.”

“Today we are pleased to announce their release and to facilitate the reunion with their families,” the statement added, quoting Daniel Littlejohn-Carrillo, head of the ICRC office in Saravena.

The ELN had admitted to kidnapping the two women on July 29, in a statement sent to their families. Subsequently, on August 2, Uribe and Parra asked their employer, Oleoduto Bicentennial, to mediate their release in a video sent to several Colombian television newscasts.

The ELN, inspired by Ché Guevara, has about 2,500 fighters according to government estimates.