[dropcap]S[/dropcap]panish journalist Salud Hernández Mora has covered Colombia from the vantage of the internal conflict, forced displacement and human rights abuses to exposing corruption at the highest levels of government.
As a columnist for the country’s leading daily El Tiempo and correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo, Hernández Mora headed to northeastern Colombia to investigate coca eradication in the Catatumbo and a region known for its rugged terrain, illicit crops and active presence of National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.
On May 19, her last tweet was datelined from El Tarra, a rural village in the department of Norte de Santander where the town’s people had ceased all activities over the weekend in protest over the disappearance of two youngsters, Jaiver Navarro and Cristian David Romero.
According to a report in the department’s main newspaper La Opinión, the situation in El Tarra has been so “tense” that the town’s mayor, José de Dios Toro advised the National Army to not “accompany” the civil protest.
The same report also claims that the Bogotá-based journalist headed to the Filo El Gringo hamlet Saturday on a hired “mototaxi.” The town’s mayor has downplayed fears that Hernández Mora was taken hostage over the weekend, and as of Monday no one has claimed responsibility for the disappearance of the award-winning journalist.
The Colombian Defense Ministry has also not been able to confirm Hernández’s whereabouts, nor her current predicament. Hernández is both a Colombian and Spanish citizen.
On Sunday night, when the seasoned reporter never returned to El Tarra and missed her flight to Bogotá, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered a full-scale military and police search.
“I order priority and dedication from the armed forces in establishing where the journalist Salud Hernandez is,” he said on Twitter.
Intelligence officials are also working to find out if Hernández was kidnapped by the ELN, the country’s second and smaller guerrilla group to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which are finalizing a four-year long peace process in Havana, Cuba.
The ELN announced March 30 that it would enter into peace “conversations” with the government to end their participation in the half-century Colombian conflict. Yet, the ELN has refused to release hostages in order to guarantee the first round of talks.
The guerrilla has also continued to attack the nation’s oil infrastructure resulting in acts of “ecocidio” (eco-cide) — the term used by Santos.
The possibility that the ELN has kidnapped Hernández Mora could grind to a halt any possibility of furthering “conversations” which informally began in 2012 with the 1,800-strong insurgency.
Salud Hernández Mora, 59, has covered Colombia for almost two decades and in her opinion page has sharply criticized the government of Juan Manuel Santos and concessions made to the FARC to formally end the internal conflict. Her last Op-Ed, dated May 15 and published in El Tiempo, was titled “The fallacies of Santos,” which denounces the way Santos is “selling” a post-conflict scenario to foreign governments.
This is a developing story