BOGOTA – A journalist and an environmental engineer who were snatched from their homes in the northeastern Colombian town of Saravena may have been kidnapped by members of the Andean nation’s second-largest rebel insurgency, authorities said Wednesday.
The women were abducted separately on Tuesday, the police commander in oil-rich Arauca province, Col. Wilson Bravo, told the press.
Colombia’s national ombud, Volmar Perez, had reported the disappearance of the women, who are employed by contracting firms building a pipeline in that region.
“Men dressed in civilian clothing” burst into the homes of journalist Elida Parra Alfonso and environmental engineer Gina Paola Uribe and took them to an unknown destination, Perez said in Bogota.
The Press Freedom Foundation, or Flip, also said in a statement in Bogota that the two women had apparently been kidnapped.
Parra had been a contributor to a local radio news program until two years ago, Flip said, adding that at the time of her abduction she was leading a program at that same station to defend children’s rights.
Flip’s release also cited Arauca ombud Gloria Cuitiba as saying that “no armed group in the area has yet claimed responsibility for the incidents.”
The press freedom watchdog also said the International Committee of the Red Cross “was aware of what happened and is in contact with the family members” of the journalist and the environmental engineer.
Parra and Uribe do community outreach work for contractors on the Bicentennial Pipeline, or OBC, which – once completed – will transport crude from oil fields in Arauca to the Caribbean port of Coveñas.
Arauca’s chief of police said it is very likely both women are being held by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, the guerrilla group active in that region.
“We’re trying to confirm that,” Bravo told RCN radio, adding that police anti-kidnapping units and army soldiers were searching for the victims.
The OBC is being built by a consortium made up of state-owned Ecopetrol and seven multinationals, including Canadian firms Pacific Rubiales Energy and Petrominerales.
The ELN, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, kidnapped 11 employees of Consorcio Casanare Avanzada, one of the contracting firms on the OBC, for a week earlier this year.
The rebels said in March that they are willing to end their offensive against the oil industry if the government agrees to make some areas off-limits and to levy a $10 per barrel “social tax” on crude production.
The ELN, which has a history of blowing up pipelines and kidnapping oil workers in Arauca, made the proposal in a document posted on its Web site. EFE