BOGOTA, Colombia: Leftist guerrillas in Colombia said yesterday they will free a Canadian engineer who has been held hostage since January, in a potential boost for the country’s peace process. The National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym ELN, asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to help arrange guarantees for Jernoc Wobert’s safe handover.
“In the coming days Canadian citizen Jernoc Wobert, vice president for exploration of the Braewal Mining Corporation, will be freed,” the ELN said in a statement.
Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo said yesterday that the ELN statement was a sign of good will that could clear the way for peace talks with the country’s second largest rebel group.
“With these positive signs of the handover of hostages, the possibility of dialogue with the group completely opens,” he said.
The FARC, largest guerrilla group, has been in talks with the government since November, but President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to talk to the ELN until it releases all hostages.
Wobert, 47, was captured by guerrillas in northern Colombia on January 18 along with two Peruvians and three Colombians employed by the Toronto-based mining company. The South Americans were freed a month later, but the ELN hung on to Wobert, demanding that the company give up its mining rights. In late July, Braewal Mining announced that it was pulling out of Colombia because of “unfavourable market conditions,” relinquishing its mining rights.AFP