BOGOTA – Two Dutch journalists freed by Colombian guerrillas in the northeastern jungle region of Catatumbo are in good health and hope to return home immediately, an official said Saturday.
Derk Johannes Bolt and his cameraman, Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, had been held captive for a week by National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels before being released at around midnight Friday to a humanitarian commission.
“They’re very pleased to experience freedom once again. They said they were very well treated and looked in very good health,” Jorge Villamizar, the ombudsman for the northeastern province of Norte de Santander, where Catatumbo is located, told EFE by telephone.
The two men were abducted last Saturday in Filogringo, a rural area of El Tarra municipality.
They said they had had a great experience but never imagined that they would be held by the ELN, the public advocate said.
Bolt and Follender had traveled to Catatumbo to find the birth mother of a Colombian girl adopted by a couple in the Netherlands, the Dutch foreign ministry said Tuesday, noting that the two men work for a missing-persons reality television show called “Spoorloos” (Without a Trace).
The journalists are currently receiving medical care in Cucuta, Norte de Santander’s capital, but hope to return to the Netherlands as soon as possible, Villamizar said.
The ELN, currently engaged in peace talks with the Colombian government, has a significant presence in Catatumbo, as do several heavily armed criminal gangs.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had been the Andean nation’s largest insurgency, is now in the process of demobilizing and handing over its weapons after signing a peace agreement last year with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos.