Canadian mining executive, Gernot Wober, was finally freed today after 221 days long captivity at the hands of Colombian rebels. Mr. Wober was returned in an isolated clearing in northern Colombia by rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) to a Red Cross delegation on Tuesday, after which he was quickly flown by a helicopter and then plane to Bogota. A member of the delegation, Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve stated that “he looks good. He’s suffered a lot, but he’s very excited about his liberty.”
Mr. Wober is the vice-president of exploration for Canadian junior mining company, Braeval Mining Corporation, who was used as a bargaining chip in a deep-rooted battle of mining rights between Colombia’s leftist guerillas and its government. Considering that Mr. Wober was released on requests of the government, it is anticipated that this act would have implications for future peace in a country that has been contained by violent armed conflict for more than 50 years, as it allows presence of Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, ELN, on the negotiating table.
Peace talks were being held to free Mr. Wober in Havana between Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and government negotiators since November. The ELN asked government to hold parallel peace talks, in response to which President, Juan Manuel Santos, insisted that government will not start any peace talks until ELN frees Mr. Wober. A professor of security and defence at the National University of Colombia, Carlos Medina Gallego, alleged that now since Mr. Wober is released, it “means this impasse will be overcome.”
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