Luis Manuel Díaz has shared his account of a 12-day mountain trekking expedition during which he slept very little.
The father of Luis Díaz, a football player for Liverpool, has opened up about his ordeal of being held captive by armed guerrillas on the Colombian-Venezuelan border for nearly two weeks, during which he underwent difficult walks and restless nights.
“It was a lot of horseback riding, really hard, lots of mountains, lots of rain, and too many insects,” remarked 58-year-old Luis Manuel Díaz. In his hometown of Barrancas, Colombia, a feeble Díaz, who needed assistance getting into and out of a chair, told reporters, “I couldn’t sleep peacefully, it was very difficult, almost 12 days without sleep.”
He said that after being taken prisoner by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, he was ecstatic to be back with his family on November 9.
At first, Díaz believed he had been kidnapped for ransom, but he later told journalists that no money was ever exchanged for his release. Cilenis Marulanda, his wife, was also taken hostage at gunpoint but was freed a few hours later.
“I still have not been able to understand what was the cause of my kidnapping, [the guerrillas] said that I have no problems with anyone.”
Although Díaz was believed to have been kidnapped by local criminals from Barrancas in the northern La Guajira province, government peace negotiations on November 2nd revealed that he was in the hands of leftist rebels.
Established in 1964 by radical priests, the ELN currently boasts an estimated 2,500 fighters who oversee the group’s drug-trafficking and extortion operations.
Following an operation aided by British intelligence, the Colombian police reported early on Saturday that four suspects had been taken into custody.
According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, Díaz is believed to have been captured and turned over to the ELN by the local drug-trafficking mafia Los Primos, also known as the cousins.
Díaz, who oversees a football foundation for local kids, claimed that after being turned over to the guerrillas on the third day, he received better treatment and that his captors made a commitment to release him as soon as they could.
“They told me to be calm, that nothing was going to happen to me, knowing that I was a humble and loved person in my town for the work I do,” he said.
The ELN’s capture has brought them to the attention of the world and raised the possibility that the peace talks between the armed group and the Colombian government would break down.
After scoring a last-minute equalizer against Luton Town last Sunday, Luis Díaz lifted his Liverpool shirt to reveal a message demanding his father’s release.
Just before the Liverpool player took the field against Toulouse on Thursday, his father said he had a chance to talk to his son. “I had the opportunity to say hello to him before he played a game for his club. And he was content, happy, because I was already with my family.”
This week, the top commander of the ELN told local media that although the kidnapping of the Premier League player’s father had been a “mistake,” it would not put an end to kidnapping for ransom.
In June, the government and the group reached a six-month cease-fire agreement with the condition that the practice end.
Despite the horrific event, Díaz declared he would not leave Barrancas and urged the nation to continue looking for a peaceful solution to the more than 60 years of internal strife.
“Let’s drop our weapons and use pens and notebooks,” he said.