BOGOTA – The Spanish journalist who went missing last weekend in the northeastern region of Catatumbo is working on a story about the ELN rebel group and is expected to return in the coming days, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday.
“About Salud Hernandez, the information I have, which I am trying to verify: she went of her own volition to do a reporting job, that she met with the ELN and the ELN is waiting to see how to return her,” the president said during a visit to the western province of Choco.
Hernandez, a correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper and columnist for the Colombian daily El Tiempo, was last seen on Saturday in El Tarra, a city in the Catatumbo region.
Santos said that while the information is not fully confirmed, it comes from reliable sources and comports with comments Hernandez made to El Tiempo editor Roberto Pombo before leaving for Catatumbo.
“She told many people, among them the editor of El Tiempo, with whom she has been in permanent communication, that she was going to do a story,” the president said.
He also referred to the situation of two Colombian journalists who went missing Monday in Catatumbo while reporting on Hernandez’s disappearance.
“We don’t have information about the two RCN reporters, we suppose that something similar must have happened with them,” Santos said.
The driver hired by the two RCN reporters who disappeared in Catatumbo turned up alive on Wednesday, media reports and other sources said.
John de Jesus Reales drove Noticias RCN correspondents Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo from Tibu to El Tarra on Monday.
D’Pablos and Melo have not been heard from since and are “presumed kidnapped,” RCN reported Tuesday.
Media reports had not mentioned Reales until Wednesday, when he arrived in Cucuta, the capital of Norte de Santander province.
Reales “was released in the early hours” of Wednesday, RCN said, adding that initial reports indicate that “the authorities found him at a place close to the Filogringo rural district” near El Tarra.