The Colombian government said Friday it was convinced that the father of international footballer Luis Diaz would soon be freed by his captors, members of the ELN guerrillas with whom peace talks are underway. “The actions taken by the ELN spokespersons indicate that he will be released (…) It is clear that if there is an agreement it will be necessary to agree on a safe area to accommodate him”, declared to the press the Minister of the Interior, Luis Fernando Velasco.

Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife Cilenis Marulanda, who has since been released, were kidnapped on October 28 from a gas station in Barrancas, the family’s hometown, near the border with Venezuela (north-east), by armed men riding motorcycles. On Thursday, the Colombian government said it “officially knew that the kidnapping” of the father of the English club Liverpool striker “was carried out by a unit belonging to the ELN”.

The ELN (National Liberation Army) had until now never claimed responsibility for the kidnapping on its traditional communication channels. Colombian President Gustavo Petro spoke Friday from Washington, where he is participating in an economic summit of Latin American countries. “To restore confidence and the possibilities for peace in Colombia”, the ELN “must make an immediate effort to free Mr. Diaz”, launched the left-wing president, who reactivated peace talks with the guerrillas in November 2022 initiated in 2017 but suspended in 2019.

According to the army, more than 250 soldiers are searching “by air and land” for the father of the Colombian international in the neighboring region of Serrania del Perija, where AFP journalists have observed roadblocks. The search has continued unabated since the kidnapping was announced, for which no ransom demand has reached the family, said Commander Llair Gonzalez, of an elite military unit against kidnapping and extortion.

Colombia seeks to end six decades of armed civil conflict by conducting peace negotiations with all illegal armed groups, including FARC dissidents who did not sign the 2016 peace agreement.