The kidnappers of two Spanish tourists have tried to sell their victims to left-wing FARC guerrillas before deciding to negotiate a ransom with the families of the hostages, according to reports Wednesday.
Telephone conversations negotiating with the victims’ families in Spain were traced by members of the Colombian Police’s anti-kidnapping unit and the Spanish National Police to originating from Venezuelan territory. Initially the kidnappers demanded over one million dollars for their hostages.
Security forces of Colombia and Venezuela identified the kidnapping gang as “Los Pinguinos,” or “the penguins,” responsible for the double kidnapping, which happened while the tourists were on a beach at Capo de la Vela, the northernmost point of Colombia. The kidnappers reportedly asked if they could take a lift in the tourists’ car, and then took them at gunpoint.
The couple, Maria Concepcion Marlaska (43) and Angel Fernandez Sanchez (49) were held for 31 days before their rescue on June 15, near the border with Venezuela.
By June 10, the authorities consented to a ransom of $71,000 being brought to Madrid while members of Colombian, Venezuelan, and Spanish security forces met to plot the capture of the kidnappers. According to reports it was to be ensured that the victims were released unharmed before any attempt was made to capture those responsible.
On the eve of the release Spanish authorities captured two men of Spanish and Syrian nationality in the first part of the sting. Meanwhile in Venezuela, three members of Los Pinguinos have been identified. According to reports, an informant helped to clarify the whereabouts of the victims and their captors.
The kidnapping is evidence of multinational criminal gangs operating in Colombia. Authorities suspect that these gangs are compiled of former guerrillas and paramilitaries.
The couple were kept in a shed where they lay in hammocks and subsisted on a diet of arepas and cheese, traditional Colombian food. After their release, Sanchez proposed to Marlaska, and the couple have decided to get married.