Colombia’s Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras and Military Chief Admiral Edgar Cely have contradicted each other’s accounts of the FARC “kidnapping” situation in the western Colombian department of Choco.
Reports thus far have stated that at least 200 people in the village of Las Mercedes, in the Choco municipality of Medio Atrato, have been surrounded by the FARC’s 34th Front and are being held hostage.
The Medio Atrato mayor, Luis Moreno, expressed concern that “they [the hostages] are running out of food.”
Cely, meanwhile, has questioned the reports, stating that it is not certain that more than 100 people have been kidnapped by the FARC.
“That is not true, the information that we obtained was that they took them off the boats and the people dispersed among the surrounding villages and others went by foot,” said the military commander.
“There are no kidnapped, there are no detained, there no injured,” he emphasized, although he said that troops were being moved to the area to address the situation further.
Minister Vargas Lleras contradicted the military chief, maintaining that the information received in earlier reports was in fact correct. “They [the FARC] have kidnapped the people. Let’s not use euphemisms, to restrict any Colombian’s freedom of mobility is a kidnapping,” he stated.
The minister said that operations to relieve the situation are already underway, stating that “we hope that over the course of the day the situation improves.”
Vargas Lleras also said that the guerrilla groups “are planning an armed strike” which will coincide with commemorative FARC celebrations due to take place on May 27.
Earlier reports suggested that the strike could impede mobility on the Atrato River until at least June.