BOGOTA – Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez-Mora, who spent six days as a hostage of Colombia’s ELN guerrilla group, said in an interview with EFE that the insurgent group was unwilling to lay down its arms and told her that her views of the rebel organization were “mistaken.”
Hernandez-Mora, a correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper and a columnist for the Colombian daily El Tiempo, said the National Liberation Army, or ELN, failed to change her opinion of it in the days she was held captive.
The ELN also kidnapped Noticias RCN reporters Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo shortly after it abducted Hernandez-Mora.
“I keep thinking that when it comes to the ELN, the only things you’d have to negotiate are legal benefits for the leadership, collective demobilization of the troops, and the country should forget about negotiating with them because I don’t think they have anything to offer, I keep thinking exactly the same thing,” Hernandez-Mora said during the interview in Bogota.
The journalist said that during her captivity in the Catatumbo region of Norte de Santander, a province on the border with Venezuela, she was able to discuss politics with the ELN guards, who said that “they had taken up arms to defend the people” and expressed “much rage” over being ignored by the government.
“I did see much rage, much resentment ... and a sense of conviction that they are not going to lay down their arms, that they are needed in those areas to defend the people,” Hernandez-Mora said, adding that she heard many times that the arms “in those areas are not going to be surrendered.”
Hernandez-Mora described the ELN in her blunt style as a “kind of Jurassic organization” that has 16-year-old and 17-year-old kids in its ranks like the ones in charge of guarding her.
“I told them, I’m going to keep pounding you ... I don’t understand anything about what you’re doing,” the Spanish journalist said, referring to the ELN’s more than 50-year-old armed struggle.
Hernandez-Mora told EFE that her kidnapping, which occurred near the town of El Tarra, was “an absurd mistake by the ELN” and a “stupid” move that did not accomplish anything.
“I told the commander that, ‘I don’t understand what you are doing, you’re making a mistake ... I don’t understand what the objective of this is,’ I never understood it and they never explained it to me,” Hernandez-Mora said, adding that she never feared for her life while in captivity.
“No, I was truly never worried at any time,” the journalist said, explaining that it was more about spending a few “very boring” days during which she read a book and waited to be moved at night.
Hernandez-Mora labeled the statement released by the ELN on Sunday night “regretting” the journalists’ kidnappings and blaming it on their “carelessness” in traveling to Catatumbo as “atrocious cynicism.”