Hundreds of Ecuadoreans marched for peace Thursday, Apr. 19, as the country continues to come to terms with the kidnapping and murder of two journalists and a driver from local newspaper El Comercio. The demonstrations took place amid the deployment of 10,000 Ecuadorean troops to the Ecuador-Colombia border in the northern province of Esmeraldas in response to the attacks of recent months.
Admiral John Merlo, the sole commander of the border zone operations, announced the details relating to the deployment Thursday. According to Admiral Merlo, the increased military and police presence has "lowered the intensity" of criminal activity in the last few days. It did not, however, prevent the kidnapping of two people in the area. During a press conference held Tuesday, Ecuador's Interior Minister Cesar Navas and Patricio Zambrano, defense minister, confirmed authorities had received information on the kidnapping of an Ecuadorean couple. They also played a video of the couple, in which one of the captives pleads: "Mr. President, they tell you to help us, to lend a hand, to avoid what happened to the journalists, we have nothing to do with this war."
Members of Ecuador's government have interpreted the message as a direct threat.
After the murder of the three El Comercio employees kidnapped on March 26, the 'Oliver Sinisterra Front', an armed dissident group led by Walter Patricio Artizala Vernaza, alias 'El Guacho,' issued a statement accusing the governments of Ecuador and Colombia of not wanting to "save the lives of the three detained" El Comercio workers.They also blamed the actions of the government for their deaths: "They did it with the military landings in various points near the place where the men were detained, which resulted in the death of the two journalists and the driver."
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