Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday praised the announcement of rebel group ELN to release a Canadian hostage. According to the president this would be a step towards beginning peace talks.
The rebels on Monday announced that they planned to release Canadian miner Jernoc Wobert “in the coming days,” half a year after capturing the miner in the north of Colombia.
“I celebrate the decision of the ELN,” said Santos. “This decision I consider the right one, in the right direction, to begin talks with our eyes on peace in this country.”
According to Santos, he had asked the Catholic Church and the Red Cross to facilitate the release operation.
“The national government will give the instructions on the case so these facilitators can take part and hopefully, as soon as possible, this Canadian citizen recovers his liberty,” said Santos.
Wobert was taken hostage in the northern Bolivar department on January 18 in what the ELN called an “action in defense of national sovereignty and national resources.”
The rebel group had claimed that the Canadian firm had “used deceit to snatch mining rights away from communities”, and insisted that Wobert would only be released once the firm had relinquished all mining titles.
Santos has made the release of the Canadian a condition for the rebel group to join peace talks currently ongoing with the much larger rebel group FARC.