Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas have released the father of Liverpool soccer player Luis Diaz, who was taken hostage almost two weeks ago, according to the government. The kidnapping of Luis Manuel Diaz has disrupted the government’s peace talks with the ELN, which resumed last year with the aim of ending the group’s involvement in Colombia’s 60-year conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 450,000 people. The two sides initiated a six-month ceasefire in August. The elder Luis Diaz was abducted on October 28 in Barrancas, a rural municipality in the northern province of La Guajira.
After arriving at his home, the soccer star’s father expressed his gratitude to the people of Barrancas, La Guajira, and Colombia for their tremendous support. Luis Diaz, who has remained in England and continued to play for Liverpool, publicly expressed his distress over the crime by wearing an undershirt with “Libertad Para Papa” (Freedom For Dad) written on it during Liverpool’s Premier League match at Luton Town on Sunday. He scored a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw. Diaz was also included in the starting lineup for Liverpool’s 3-2 Europa League loss at Toulouse in France on Thursday, but he was substituted nine minutes before the end without making a significant impact. Liverpool released a statement on social media platform X, expressing their delight at the safe return of Luis Diaz’s father and thanking everyone involved in securing his release.
The government’s negotiating delegation at the peace talks with the ELN celebrated Diaz’s release but emphasized that the kidnapping should never have occurred. In a statement, the delegation stated that the kidnapping had placed their dialogue in a critical situation and called for decisive action to eliminate kidnapping. The statement also demanded the release of all individuals held by the ELN, which amounts to approximately 30 people according to official sources. Delegates from the Catholic Church and the United Nations have been working to secure the release of hostages. Historically, guerrilla groups in Colombia have used kidnapping as a means of fundraising and exerting pressure.
The ELN, which had previously announced that it would release Diaz, admitted that the kidnapping was a mistake. However, the release was delayed as the rebels claimed that military operations were hindering the process, a claim denied by the army. The ELN reaffirmed their commitment to seeking change and peace in a message via X. Diaz was abducted alongside his wife Cilenis Marulanda, who was freed within hours.
The discussions with the ELN represent the most advanced stage of the government’s negotiations with various armed groups. In September, RushHourDaily reported exclusively that Colombian security sources anticipate that at least 40% of ELN fighters could reject a potential peace deal and remain armed. The fragmented command structure of the ELN has long been a concern for analysts and critics of the talks, who have warned that the group’s most radical units are unlikely to adhere to any agreement.
The article was reported by Luis Jaime Acosta, Julia Symmes Cobb, and Oliver Griffin, with editing by Toby Davis and Grant McCool. The journalists adhere to the Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles. Luis Jaime has been with RushHourDaily for over 30 years, primarily covering Colombia’s armed conflict and the fight against drug trafficking. Oliver reports on energy, the environment, and general news from Bogotá, with a particular focus on Colombia’s oil crime and its environmental impact.
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