Footballer Luis Diaz’s Father Released by ELN

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Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) has freed the kidnapped Luis Manuel Diaz, father of Liverpool footballer Luis Diaz. Diaz was taken hostage by the leftist guerilla group on October 28, along with Diaz’s mother Cilenis Marulanda, though she was freed within hours after national and international outcry. The couple were taken hostage at gunpoint at a gas station near their hometown in the remote Serranía del Perijá in the North of Colombia. 

Luis Manuel Diaz was meant to be released prior to this, however, the ELN said the presence of the Colombian military delayed his release. In a statement released on Sunday they said “The area is still militarized, there are flyovers, deployment of troops, megaphone broadcasts, offers of rewards and an intense combing operation.”

Videos from local media show the freed Luis Manuel Diaz disembarking from a helicopter at an airstrip near the city of Valledupar.

Luis Diaz scored a last-minute goal for Liverpool on the weekend and revealed a message on his undershirt stating “Freedom For Dad”. 

The motivation for the kidnapping is still speculated. Guerrilla groups in Colombia have a long history of kidnapping for ransom to raise funds and to put pressure on authorities. 

The ELN is currently engaging in peace talks with the Colombian government, after agreeing to a 6-month ceasefire in August this year. The peace process is part of President Petro’s aim to end the drug war and violence in Colombia. However, this hostage situation may have destabilised the already fragile peace process in Colombia.