Monday, October 1, 2012

Ecuador: Kidnapping a Reminder to Tourists to Avoid Provinces Near Ecuadorian-Colombian Border

According to The Telegraph, two women tourists, Briton Kathryn Fox, 23, and Australian Fiona Wilde, 32, were rescued by Ecuadorian security forces rescued from kidnappers Sucumbios province on Sunday (September 30) after being kidnapped from a group of five foreigners, two Ecuadorians and two guides who were traveling by canoe on September 28.

From all indications, the group who kidnapped the two women were Colombian, given Sucumbios' proximity to the Ecuadorian-Colombian border.

COMMENT: Fox and Wilde both should consider themselves fortuitous in that they were rescued so quickly by the Ecuadorian military, for if they had reached Colombia, they easily could have been held for months. 

Although the US Department of State has urged US citizens to avoid the border region between the two countries for years, this weekend's abduction has caused the British Foreign Office to strengthen its travel advisory for the region. In July 2002, a British oil worker and his driver were kidnapped and later killed in Sucumbios. 

Both women have been in touch with their respective diplomatic representatives, who are assisting with medical care and consular assistance. 

Australian government travel advice for the area "strongly advises" its citizens not to go to Sucumbios and other north-eastern provinces because of the high security risks. 

Sucumbíos is bounded on the north by Colombia, on the south by Napo and Orellana, on the west by Carchi and Imbabura, on the southwest by Pichincha,  and on the east by Péru. Sucumbíos is the only province in Ecuador that borders two different countries [Péru and Colombia]. 

Having worked extensively in Péru, Colombia and Ecuador over the years, it is my personal recommendation that tourists and travelers to Ecuador remain at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Colombian border. 

Also, any tourist or traveler visiting Latin America should, as a matter of course, CONTACT their nearest embassy or consulate to determine whether it is safe to travel in isolated, rural areas, where the police presence is sparse at best.