A day after news broke that Luis Diaz’ parents had been kidnapped by four men on motorcycle while returning to their home in Barrancas, Colombia, the story remains largely unchanged with Diaz’ mother having been rescued while his father’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Rescue efforts are being led by the Colombian army, with “two motorized platoons, unmanned aircraft, checkpoints, helicopters, a plane with specialized radar, and more than 120 men” reportedly dispatched and the region locked down.
The most likely perpetrators are said to be common criminals or a small, independent armed group, with organized crime or cartel involvement not being considered by authorities—and with Colombia’s cartels not historically having involved themselves in kidnapping for ransom or organized criminal activities not directly related to the cocaine trade.
There had been suggestions on Sunday night that the kidnappers may have taken Diaz’ father into Venezuela, which at its closest point is only about 20 kilometres from Barrancas, and some local authorities are said to fear that this has taken place.
However, it is a heavily forested and mountainous area, and while the general in charge of the rescue efforts would not rule out the possibility, he believes a direct overland journey across the border where it is closest to Barrancas would be implausible.
“About that I cannot give any information and I want to be very cautious,” General William Salamanca was reported to have said regarding speculation about the captors escaping to Venezuela. “They would have to cross the Perijá mountain range and I think that a human being cannot do it in that area.
“We were trying to leave commandos there and we couldn’t because of the denseness of the jungle. Also since last night there has been a blockade that the Army made in the lower part of the mountain range, which would be the exit to Venezuela.”
Working out from the last known point the kidnappers travelled has led authorities to a thick region of jungle to the east and south of Barrancas where rapid movement would be next to impossible, with the current priority being to ensure that escaping from that area with Diaz’ father would be difficult.
However, just as the dense jungle would limit the ability of his captors to move quickly, it also limits authorities’ ability to search on the ground—though heat-mapping of the region is ongoing—and the suggestion is that at the moment the priority is largely containment and waiting to learn of any demands from the kidnappers.
In addition to the army resources involved in the efforts, police anti-kidnapping and jungle commando squads are also on the ground as Colombia reels from the shock of the sort of high-profile kidnapping the country believed had been consigned to the past.