Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has played down the gravity of the FARC “kidnapping” situation in the Pacific department of Choco but said the problem is now resolved, Caracol Radio reported Wednesday.
The president apparently stated that FARC members from the rebel group’s 34th Front “intimidated” locals who were attempting to travel down the Atrato River, in the municipality of Medio Atrato, near the department capital of Quibdo.
“The security forces reacted immediately and I do not want the scope of what really happened there to be exaggerated, because it was given the implication of a massive kidnapping and that, in reality, never happened there,” the head of state explained.
Varying reports had claimed that since the weekend up to 250 people were being held hostage, without food, and were being used as human shields.
Minister Vargas Lleras concurred with the original reporting Wednesday, stating “They [the FARC] have kidnapped the people. Let’s not use euphemisms, to restrict any Colombian’s freedom of mobility is a kidnapping.”
Military Chief Admiral Edgar Cely, who Santos announced would be arriving to review the region Thursday, was first to cast doubt on the “kidnapping” situation when he insisted that “There are no kidnapped, there are no detained, there no injured.”
Santos nevertheless added that the FARC impeded the mobility of the peasants travelling down the river, which “should never happen,” but the security forces have the area under control and the problem has been overcome.