Japanese Man Kidnapped in Colombia Is Freed

By Dialogo
August 17, 2010

A Japanese man kidnapped in Colombia almost five months ago was freed Sunday after his captors abandoned him in the middle of a police operation aimed at rescuing him, in a mountainous region in the southwestern part of the country, a police commander announced.

Masao Tsutsui, sixty-nine years old, was found by a specialized group of the National Police near the border between the departments of El Valle and Cauca, where an attempt to rescue him was underway, according to the commander of the Cali Metropolitan Police, Gen. Miguel Angel Bojacá.

The foreigner was kidnapped at the end of March in the town of Candelaria, in the department of El Valle, where he ran a business selling plants and farm products.

Tsutsui, who has lived in Colombia for more than three decades and is the father of four children, was kidnapped by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist rebel group, who demanded 540,000 dollars in ransom, Bojacá revealed.

The police commander affirmed that the foreigner’s family did not pay any ransom.

Tsutsui, who is in good health, communicated to the authorities his decision to continue living in Colombia despite the kidnapping to which he fell victim.

Kidnapping has decreased considerably in Colombia in the last eight years, under the two-term administration of former president Alvaro Uribe, who launched an offensive against the country’s guerrilla groups, with the support of the United States, and forced them to retreat to remote mountain and jungle areas.

Kidnapping was one of the guerrilla groups’ main sources of financing, along with extortion and drug trafficking.

In 2009, 213 kidnappings were reported in Colombia, a marked drop from the 2,882 reported in 2002, according to official statistics.