Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, has confirmed it kidnapped a mayor in the Pacific region, claiming he will be released after facing a rebel-organized corruption trial.
According to the ELN, Mayor Fredys Palacios from the town of Alto Baudo in Choco “stole money from the municipal budget.”
Palacios was kidnapped on December 16 while traveling by boat together with 11 adults and five children.
After arriving at a place known as La Playa, rebels seized the boat and abducted the mayor. The other passengers of the boat were left behind.
“The mayor … campaigned among the communities, promising to invest in healthcare and education, but once in office he did the same as the rest of the government officials in the state, which is stealing the money from the municipal budget.”
As a consequence of these “acts of corruption and contempt for the citizens,” … “the Western War Front of the National Liberation Army proceeded to deprive him of his freedom in order to force him to be held accountable for the municipal administration.”
The rebels said they would release the mayor “once the trial has ended and [Palacios] commits to returning what he stole.”
According to authorities, local ELN unit commander “El Mocho” is behind the kidnapping.
The ELN is mostly active in Choco and in the northwest of Colombia where they — 50 years after their foundation — frequently carry out armed attacks against state forces or the oil sector.
The group is engaged in preliminary peace talks with the government.