These three exhausted-looking chained-up members of a news team spent three months in captivity at the hands of guerrilla fighters before they were brutally murdered and their bodies dumped in unmarked graves.
Now justice has finally caught up with their killer Jesus Vargas Cuajiboy, known by his alias ‘Reinel’, after he was sentenced to 28 years and 8 months in prison by a Colombian judge for his role in the kidnapping and murder of three Ecuadorian journalists on 26th March 2018.
Journalist Javier Ortega,32, cameraman Paul Rivas, 45, and driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were sent to the border between Ecuador and Columbia by Ecuadorian news outlet El Comercio in March 2018.
They were kidnapped by a dissident faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army (FARC) known as ‘Oliver Sinisterra ‘.
The FARC are a left-wing militia that fought an extremely bloody military conflict against the Colombian government between 1964 and 2016.
The conflict continued until a peace treaty was signed between the militia and the Colombian government in 2016.
FARC now has representation in the Colombian parliament, however, it is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of dissidents remain at war.
In a statement obtained by Newsflash from the Columbian Attorney General’s Office, the prosecutor explains that Vargas served as a mid-rank leader in the Oliver Sinisterra armed faction.
The prosecutor added that ‘Reinel’ guarded the journalist team until he received orders from his superior, alias ‘Guacho’, to kill the hostages.
Reinel followed his orders and three months after the team was kidnapped they were all executed.
The bodies of the victims were found in unmarked graves in the southern Columbian department of Narino which sits on the border with Ecuador and is known as an illegal drug production hotspot.
In July 2018 ‘Reinel’ was arrested by Columbian authorities and according to the Attorney General’s statement, he accepted responsibility for his actions and apologised to the families of the victims.
‘Guacho’ the leader of the faction who according to the prosecutor ordered ‘Reinel’ to carry out the murders was killed by the Columbian military in December 2018.
The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) a non-profit organisation that works to protect journalists in Columbia expressed its disappointment with the investigation as they believe it put all the blame on one man instead of casting a wider net.
FLIP posted on their official social media: “For the victims and their representatives, what happened throughout the process and the sentence reveals the lack of a serious and exhaustive investigation by the Columbian Attorney General’s Office”
Although FLIP considers the sentence itself it accuses the Columbian Attorney General’s Office of not being “diligent in its investigation”.
A spokesperson from the group added: ” The prosecutor has not managed to clarify responsibilities at other levels within the organisation nor has it identified the masterminds of the kidnapping and subsequent murders “
FLIP also questioned the role of the military in the negotiations with the rebels stating: “aspects that would compromise the responsibility of the Colombian State in the kidnapping and murders have been omitted during the investigation”
This comment is referencing the alleged military operations that were carried out in the Narino department during negotiations with the rebels which FLIP believes frustrated the process.
The Attorney General’s Office has not responded to the criticism made by FLIP but it has opened an investigation into two other members of Oliver Sinisterra.
Jesús Alfredo Segura Arroyo, alias ‘Roberto’; and Juan Carlos Portocarrero Cortes, alias ‘Chuky’ are being held in preliminary detention while the prosecutor builds its case against them.
To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash