Cablegate: Released Eln Hostage Discusses Kidnapping

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

id: 13081
date: 1/7/2004 12:57
refid: 04BOGOTA97
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 000097


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/06/2013

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood, reasons
1.5 (b) and (d)

1. (C) On December 24, poloff met with Israeli citizen Ido Guy, who had
been released by the National Liberation Army (ELN) two days earlier af
over three months in captivity. Guy was accompanied by Israeli securit
liaison Guy Ner, who had been posted at the headquarters of the Colombi
military's First Division in Santa Marta during much of the hostages'
captivity. Guy and Ner made several notable observations about the ELN
structure and kidnapping methods:

Sequence of Events

2. (C) While camping near the city of Santa Marta, in the "Ciudad
Perdida", one of Colombia's most significant archeological sites, Guy a
seven other tourists were approached by a dozen armed individuals who,
without identifying themselves, claimed the area was dangerous and said
they would guide the tourists to safety. After walking and camping for
two days, a guerrilla commander arrived to tell the tourists that the E
was retaining them as political hostages. Prior to this, the guerrilla
had refused to identify themselves. The hostages were moved frequently
usually spending no more than a few days at any one location. However,
they remained at one camp for nearly a month. Two days before the
hostages' release, several allegedly high-ranking ELN commanders, who
concealed their faces, arrived to ask the hostages how they planned to
publicly characterize their time in ELN captivity. Although the
commanders did not directly pressure the hostages to describe their
experience with a pro-ELN slant, they were clearly concerned about how
hostages' stories would affect the ELN's international image. On Decem
22, their captors released them to a delegation from the Roman Catholic
Church National Conciliation Commission (CCN) and the National Human
Rights Ombudsman's Office (Defensorma).

A Spartan Lifestyle

3. (C) Guy, a former member of the Israeli army, estimated most of his
captors to be in their late teens or early twenties. Commanders appear
slightly older, possibly in their thirties. Morale among the combatant
seemed good. Their educational levels and familiarity with politics an
current events varied considerably. Most appeared committed to the ELN
political ideology and claimed to be combating social inequality. Near
all expressed disdain for the United States and President Uribe. In
comparing themselves to the FARC, the combatants said the ELN was a mor
politically focused organization. Although they were well armed with
Galil rifles, AK47s, and M-16s, they often played with their weapons an
did not follow safety precautions. Only the commanders and a few
combatants had camouflage uniforms; the others wore civilian clothes.
Food was scarce. The combatants found fruits and vegetables growing in
the area or commandeered livestock and other food from the local

Area of Operations

4. (C) Guy and Ner believe the kidnapping was approved at the highest
levels of the ELN. Orders for the combatants came via radio or letters
delivered by local residents, who were often indigenous persons. The E
appeared firmly in control of territory near "Ciudad Perdida" and showe
little concern about the possible presence of other illegal armed group
or the Colombian military. As they moved in what Guy believed was an
easterly direction, however, the combatants appeared much less familiar
with the territory and became more concerned about security. Residents
many villages through which the group passed appeared complicit with th
ELN, although in other communities combatants tried to conceal the
hostages and threatened villagers with retaliation if they did not assi

Hostage Treatment

5. (C) Guy said he and his fellow hostages were treated moderately well
probably on the direct orders of senior ELN leaders. For example, the
hostages ate before their captors did and were provided medical care --
albeit rudimentary -- by female combatants with limited medical supplie
Guy was given a pair of rubber boots to replace the inadequate shoes he
was wearing when he was kidnapped. They were allowed to keep their
watches and other valuables and could listen to the news on the radio.
Guy claimed he was never seriously afraid he would be executed, but
worried about health problems and the possibility of a firearms acciden
The hostages were not allowed to contact their families and were not to
ahead of time when they would be released. About a dozen armed combata
usually guarded them, although an additional contingent joined them for
several days shortly after the kidnapping. Early in their ordeal the
hostages unsuccessfully attempted to escape, after which their captors
threatened to treat them more harshly but never followed up on their
threats. All told, Guy estimated the hostages walked approximately 300
miles during their captivity.
Disappointing COLMIL Rescue Efforts

6. (C) Ner was frustrated by the First Division's efforts to locate the
hostages. In his view, the division used the kidnapping as a
justification for launching operations in the region that were only
tangentially related to the hostages. He also believes that now-retire
General Leonel Gomez, then-Commander of the First Division, was less th
honest in describing his efforts to find the hostages. For example, Ne
recounted that Gomez had claimed the hostages were taken southwest, and
that First Division troops had found some of the hostages belongings
along that route. However, Ner believes the hostages were taken east a
that Gomez falsely claimed to have found some of the hostages' belongin
in order to appease Ner and other interested parties. According to Guy
only once during their entire captivity, when they heard a helicopter i
the distance, did the hostages see evidence of Colombian military
operations. The Colombian military did not debrief the hostages for
intelligence purposes after their release. Representatives of the
Prosecutor General's Office ("Fiscalia") were the only government agent
to speak with the hostages and, in Ner's opinion, the interviews they
conducted were cursory.

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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