.- Bishop Ugo Puccini of the Diocese of Santa Marta in Columbia and one of a three-member commission created at the request of the National Liberation Army (ELN) to negotiate the release of seven tourists kidnapped in the Nevada Mountains, expressed dismay at the lack of response from guerrilla forces to enter into negotiations.
Bishop Puccini and the other members of the commission, who have been in Santa Marta two days, said, “Right now we can’t do anything else except wait for a response.”
“We have had no contact with them. We are in Santa Marta waiting to go to wherever they tell us in the Nevada Mountains and immediately begin negotiations,” the Bishop explained.
He also lamented that they know nothing “of the people who are supposed to be our intermediaries.” “Today I met with the rest of the commission and we will try to use all of our external contacts to find out why these people have not gotten in touch with us,” he added.
The other members of the commission include Bishop Héctor Fabio Henao and Father Darío Echeverry.
According to Bishop Puccini, “We’ve only reached the half-way point. We have been unable to achieve much so far in this good-will effort, and therefore we call upon the spokesmen of this group to indicate the next steps that need to be taken.”
In addition to negotiating the release of the hostages, the commission also intends to look for evidence of survival and verify the humanitarian crisis facing the population of the Nevada Mountains, in response to requests made by the ELN when it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping on September 29.
The tourists were kidnapped last September 12 by the ELN as they were visiting the archeological ruins of the Lost City, in the Nevada Mountains.