Crime & Justice

Venezuelan soldiers kidnapped during border clashes released

Caracas, May 31 (EFE).- Venezuela’s defense minister on Monday confirmed that eight soldiers kidnapped on Apr. 23 by FARC dissidents have been rescued, more than three hours after the NGO Fundaredes announced the news.

“At this moment, accompanied by an excellent group of military doctors, we are providing care to 8 courageous patriots, kidnapped by Colombian criminal groups, [who] were rescued today in the state of Apure,” Vladimir Padrino López wrote on Twitter in a message accompanied by a statement by the armed forces.

According to the text, they were kidnapped by irregular Colombian armed groups during fighting between the Venezuelan Armed Forces and FARC dissidents, ongoing since March 21.

“We had been making enormous efforts to secure the recovery of the patriotic brothers, whom we, fortunately, already have with us, safe and sound. On the other hand, we make it public knowledge that we are continuing the search for two other soldiers,” the statement said, referring to the missing persons to whom the government had not referred until now.

The release was first announced by the director of the nonprofit Fundaredes, Javier Tarazona, who, in the face of the government’s silence on the matter, had been reporting on the clashes, as well as the kidnappings, a week before it was confirmed by Padrino López.

“We have information on the release of the 8 military prisoners of war of FARC’s 10th Front who since April 23 were ambushed by this terrorist group in the La Capilla sector of Apure state; they would be undergoing medical examinations in the city of Caracas,” Tarazona said in a video posted on Twitter.

He added that some of the soldiers have already communicated with their families.

The Venezuelan government, which has released little information since the start of the clashes, acknowledged the abduction of the eight soldiers on May 15 in a statement read by Padrino López on national television after several days of pressure by the opposition and nonprofits.

The minister said that the government was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross to create the “necessary conditions” to help secure their release.

The opposition, which blamed the government for the clashes along the border, repeatedly demanded official information on the kidnapping of the soldiers, the number of people killed, missing and wounded due to the fighting but failed to get a response.

“Due to [President Nicolás] Maduro and his policy of handing over our territorial sovereignty to armed foreign irregular groups, these Venezuelan soldiers are kidnapped and their lives are in danger,” opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s representative in Colombia, Tomás Guanipa, had said then.

On May 22, Guanipa posted a video on Twitter showing one of the eight hostages reading a statement directed at the “Bolivarian people, the national government, the International Red Cross, and FARC.”

The soldier thanked Padrino López for making arrangements for their release and urged that the “actions be carried out diligently and as quickly as possible.”

“We want to be with our families and put the lesson learned into practice. Thank you all for your prayers and for watching out for us. We are currently enjoying good health and a good diet. I show the date today, May 16, 2021,” the soldier concluded.

Despite the video, the government continued to maintain its silence on the matter. EFE


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