‘Voices of Kidnapping’ radio show provides hope for Colombian abduction victims
By Dialogo April 15, 2014
For 20 years, the radio show “Voices of Kidnapping” has been using the airwaves to send messages of hope to kidnapping victims and their loved ones.
The show begins every Saturday at midnight, and lasts for six hours. Throughout Colombia, thousands of relatives and friends of kidnapping victims turn on their radios to listen to the show. Hoping that their loved one is listening, some of the relatives and friends call in to the show to deliver messages of love, faith, and courage.
The show is hosted by journalist Herbin Hoyos Medina. Hoyos has been a war correspondent for much of his career. He covered the Persian Gulf War, and conflicts in Bosnia, Sarajevo, Kosovo, Pristina, Belgrade, and Sierra Leon. He is the author of the best-selling book, “The Wars of Terrorism.”
FARC kidnapping leads to radio show
The idea of creating a radio show dedicated to helping kidnapping victims and their relatives came to Hoyos when he was kidnapped in 1994 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In 1994, FARC operatives kidnapped Hoyos, and forced him walk through the jungle. He was hungry and thirsty, and developed blisters on his feet.
Eventually, Hoyos and his captors reached a FARC campsite. The FARC operatives tied Hoyos to a tree. Another kidnapping victim, a man, was tied to a tree a few meters away. Hoyos spoke to the man, who said he and six others had been in captivity for two years. Hoyos promised the man that if he got out alive, he would do his best to send out “messages
Colombian Army soldiers battled the FARC for 13 days. Soldiers killed four FARC operatives and rescued Hoyos on March 29, 1994. The journalist had been in captivity.
Hoyos launched the radio program less than two weeks later, on April 10, 1994.
“I returned to the station and told the radio listeners that the hostages could sometimes listen to the radio. We began to produce the program with the help of volunteers,” Hoyos said. “The first weekend we received 50 calls and the second weekend we had 500 callers trying to send a message to their loved ones.”
The kidnapping by FARC operatives was not the only time Hoyos almost lost in life.
In 2000, Hoyos went to Chechnya as part of a humanitarian mission. Chechen paramilitary forces captured Hoyos. For several days, the paramilitaries beat and tortured Hoyos. They threw him in a mass grave and left him for dead.
But Hoyos survived, and returned to Colombia to resume his radio program. The dramatic experiences have given Hoyos a greater appreciation for his mission of helping kidnapping victims.
“Life has given me many opportunities. Now I live to the fullest. And my passion is helping the victims of the war and kidnapping in Colombia and many parts of the world,” said Mr. Hoyos who is regarded as a fearless hero by many Colombians.
Keeping the memories of kidnapping victims alive
At the beginning of each broadcast, Hoyos asks the kidnappers to allow the hostages to listen to the program.
“To the kidnapper gentlemen we ask you to provide a radio to the kidnapped so that they can listen to us,” Hoyos says. “If they are asleep we ask you to wake them up. So that they are motivated and they want to live. So they'll have a positive attitude and will not be a problem to you.”
“This is a pedagogy with the guerrilla so they understand that when a kidnapping victim has no contact with his family wants to die or be killed looking to no longer live in solitude,” Hoyos said. “A depressed or violent kidnapped is a problem for them. If the kidnapped hears their loved ones knows it has to eat in order to be well. “Faith and hope and the will to fight for life is achieved with the energy of loved ones,” said Mr. Hoyos.
“With this communication we could achieve that guerrillas give their kidnap victims what we now call ‘kidnapping kit’ consisting of radio, batteries, wires, toothbrush and toothpaste,” Hoyos explained.
At times, the loved ones of kidnapers dedicate songs to the person they knew who was abducted. Each week, a segment of the program celebrates the memory of a specific kidnapping victim. victim.
The program broadcasts as many as 700 messages in one night. Loved ones of kidnapping victims who listen to the show also send messages of support to each other on social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Radio Caracol and its 116 affiliated stations broadcasts the program in Colombia. The World Radio Network distributes the program to 2,300 radio stations around the world. The program reaches an estimated 5 million listeners each week.
The radio program report reports news of kidnappings, disappearances, and human trafficking throughout the world.
Security forces fight kidnapping
The Colombian National Police and the country’s Armed Forces have made great strides in rent years in reducing the numbers of kidnappings by the FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and other organized crime groups.
Between 2000 and 2007, authorities recorded more than 14,000 kidnappings in Colombia, according to researchers at the University of La Sabana in Bogotá, from 2000 to 2007.
In 1996 the government created the Unified Action Group (GAULA), an elite anti-kidnapping unit. Since 2007, the GUALA has dismantled 47 kidnapping gangs.
GAULA’s work has brought positive results. For example, in 2013, 299 kidnappings were reported in Colombia, according to government statistics.
The Colombian intelligence service DAS (Department of Security Administration) estimated that from 1991-1999, relatives, friends, and business associates of kidnapping victims paid $1 billion to secure the release of kidnapping victims.
Support for the military
Members of the Colombian Armed Forces were guests on a recent show. They provided words of encouragement for soldiers who had been kidnapped.
Enrique Alfonso Celis has called the program every Saturday for the past 17 years. FARC operatives kidnapped his brother-in-law, Héctor Velásquez Carrillo, in a jungle region in the department of Caquetá in 1997. Velásquez was 22 when he was abducted. .
“Dear Héctor, I send you a hug from afar. We want everyone in the jungle to receive warmth and love from home,” Celis said. “Winter begins in Colombia and we worry all the kidnapped have shelter and blankets. May all military police and civilian abductees have warmth,” said Mr. Celis.
“Héctor had a great sense of humor,” Celis said in an interview. “He was very intelligent and his brother soldiers loved him so much. He had a great talent as a military instructor.”
Pais Libre, a non-profit organization dedicated to prevent kidnapping and help victims of kidnapping believes there are about 200 soldiers currently being held captive by illegal groups in Colombia.
Excellent article, we hope it reaches many people that are unaware of the reality that exists in Colombia. It is vital that it fell into the hands of INTERNATIONAL ENTITIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN INTERNATIONAL LAW, so that the claims of the many victims reached THE CRIMINAL INTERNATIONAL COURT, and with its actions stopped those armed, inhumane terrorist groups. Good work I would have never thought of such a thing to do. I hope some kidnappers would listen. I have always admired this journalist for his courage and tenacity. Kidnapping in all of Latin America has become a horrible epidemic. The kidnappers have to be caught and punished severely in order for this to be stopped. It is affecting the economy, because everyone is afraid to travel to places where we loved to go, now the fear factor of something so evil is preventing travelers to visit.
The families of the victims are tortured with worry and unbelievable inability to do anything about their family members that are being kidnapped. White slavery is making millions of dollars at the cost of many innocent lives.
Until the government makes a true effort to stop these criminals it will continue to affect all of AMERICA. The journalist who writes these articles is in grave danger and needs to be supported for his courage to tell the truth. Kidnapping is a crime, as several others, that cannot be part of "perdÃ³n y olvido" in a peace treaty. Kidnappers, whomever they may be, have to pay in jail for that coward crime. Excellent job. This journalist deserves all support international community can affort, himself has made a great effort denouncing these atrocities but needs to be backed up and protected, to keep him in doing it, for all organization that can voice out what he is doing. Excellent article. very informative, hope it brings some hope to the victims. Like my Abuela would say. La Esperanza muere al ultimo.