Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Colombia: Two Spanish Tourists in 40s Kidnapped in La Guajira

According to EFE, Spanish tourists Angel Sánchez Fernández, 49, and María Concepción Marlaska Sedano, 43, were abducted on Friday (May 17).

Sánchez Fernández and Marlaska Sedano were reportedly kidnapped in La Guajira, a Colombian province on the border with Venezuela.

COMMENT: Both kidnap victims are from Aviles, a city in the northern Spanish region of Asturias, and were in Colombia on vacation.

The kidnappers contacted the victims’ families over the weekend and demanded the payment of an undisclosed ransom.

Although the abductors claimed to belong to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia's oldest and largest rebel group, given the location as to where the two were kidnapped (i.e., near the Venezuelan border), the kidnappers could have used the FARC label simply as a diversion.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo confirmed the tourists’ kidnapping and said the Foreign Ministry was “in contact” with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the victims’ families.

The Colombian National Police is coordinating its efforts with its Spanish counterpart and has deployed officers from a special anti-kidnapping unit to La Guajira.

It should be noted that the Department of La Guajira is by no means a "safe" area to be a tourist of any nationality, given the fact that many Colombian rebels, smugglers and thugs of all sorts use Venezuela as a refuge to escape from Colombian security forces. Conversely, criminals in Venezuela often seek temporary refuge in Colombia.

Unfortunately, foreigners kidnapped on either side of the Venezuelan-Colombian border rarely experience an abduction of short duration.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.