The Colombian military has urged foreign citizens living in rural areas of the country to consult local authorities before traveling after four Chinese oil workers were kidnapped last week in the southern Caqueta department.
An official from the press office of the Ministry of Defense told Colombia Reports that foreigners living in rural areas of Colombia should consult with the army before traveling to certain locations in the countryside because of the risk of possible guerrilla presence. The army will be able to better evaluate the security situation in rural areas the official explained.
The Ministry of Defense also said that if individuals require a military escort into zones of possible conflict they can consult the companies they work for to ask the local army officials for assistance.
Admiral Edgar Cely told Chinese news agency Xinhua Tuesday that although the majority of the country is secure, it is important to reinforce the communication between foreigners and the authorities responsible for security in these zones. He suggests that foreign civilians consult the army about regional safety before heading to specific rural zones.
Colombia Reports confirmed Admiral Cely’s comments with the press office at the Ministry of Defense.
“The recommendation is to always alert the military and authorities of movements, because they are the ones that can provide an extra point of security, not general vigilance, but help them in a specific movement in this zone,” said the admiral.
The oil and mining industries are most at risk for kidnapping of foreign employees because these projects generally function in rural areas, far from major cities, where guerrilla groups are most prevalent.
“We have established some norms, rules and we ask them to follow them, because this will help us work on security in seismic points, points of exploration, or the wells of exploitation that generally are not near to the cities,” said Cely.
The army official said that in the rural areas of San Vicente del Caguan and Los Pozos, where the four Chinese Emerald Energy workers were kidnapped by alleged FARC guerrillas, the army has 32 kilometers permanently monitored by military vehicles, although this does not guarantee the security of foreigners who he suggests need to be aware of their environment.
“In the specific site of Los Pozos, where there are the different ducts of exploration and exploitation, there is a battalion that is protecting movements on the highways, that generally are isolated, which generates a certain risk, a vulnerability.” explained the admiral.
Sending a message to the families of the kidnapped oil workers, Admiral Cely said, “The National Colombian Army, the National Police, and the security forces of Colombia are engaged in the operation to rescue the hostages. We are not going to do any type of operation that puts the lives of the hostages in danger in any manner.”