Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, on Monday said that the Canadian miner kidnapped by the group in late January will “remain” in captivity.
“The Canadian engineer Jernoc Wobert…is still being [held in captivity] by guerrillas of the National Liberation Army, in the Serrania de San Lucas [mountain range], while…the Peruvians…and… the three Colombians were liberated. [They were all] detained four weeks ago in the Geo Explorer mining camp in Casa de Barro, in Norosi, south of Bolivar,” read a statement released by the ELN on Monday.
The insurgents claimed that they kidnapped the six employees to draw attention to the allegedly corrupt government practice of distributing mining titles to exploitative international corporations to the detriment of local mining communities.
“The mining titles of Casa de Barro and Mina Seca were originally [given] to traditional mining communities…but due to the maneuvers of corrupt intermediaries, these titles ended up in the hands of the Canadian company…which employed the engineer Wobert.”
Colombia’s defense minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that the military was still trying to locate the Canadian national.
“Of course, the military and police…in the area are still trying to locate this Canadian citizen kidnapped by the terrorist group. That group is looking for money as always and that shows the kind of bandits and criminals they are,” said Pinzon.
The ELN, however, said the government were the real criminals. They claimed that the government collaborated with local paramilitaries which then led to vast exploitation in the region.
“The clan of “La Gata” and the clan of the Garcias, led by the [congresswoman] Piedad Sukardi, [have ownership] over the municipalities of Montecristo, Achi, Tiquisio, Puerto Rico and Rio Viejo. Meanwhile, another mafioso clan has taken over Santa Rosa, Simiti and Morales. The former are affiliated with the [conservative] U Party and the latter form part of the Radical Change Party, parties that are at the heart of the Santos government…These clans have numerous paramilitary squadrons with fixed bases in the territory and [act] in perfect coordination with the military and police,” the guerrillas stated.
The ELN has approximately 2,500 armed members and has been fighting the Colombian state since 1964. The group has yet to release two German nationals they kidnapped in northern Colombia back in November. According to the rebels, the accused will be considered “foreign intelligence agents until proven otherwise.”