Both Ecuadorean and Colombian Government have confirmed the killing of "Guacho," leader of the Oliver Sinisterra Front that was behind the murders of the El Comercio team.
On Friday, the Colombian government confirmed the death of Walter Artizala Vernaza, commonly known as "Guacho," accused of being responsible for the murder of the three Ecuadorian journalists who were kidnapped in March of this year.
President Ivan Duque confirmed the news through an official statement. The killing of "Guacho" happened in the Nariño department, in a clash between the Colombian army and the Oliver Sinisterra Front that "Guacho" commanded. "I told the Ecuadorian people that the crime of the three journalists would not be impunity, it is an achievement of a whole country," Duque said in his Twitter account.
Podemos confirmar que cayó alias ‘Guacho’, uno de los más horrendos criminales que haya conocido nuestro país. Ha sido abatido por los héroes de Colombia. Le dije al pueblo ecuatoriano que el crimen de los tres periodistas no quedaría en la impunidad. Es un logro de todo un país. pic.twitter.com/0JcHyBrq1c— Iván Duque (@IvanDuque) December 22, 2018
The families of the El Comercio Journalist team released a statement saying that no death is a reason for celebration. "Although we recognize the work carried out by the Colombian authorities, it is regrettable that the person that claimed the kidnapping and murder of five people was killed instead of having been captured alive," regretted the El Comercio Journalist Team relatives.
In their statement, the relatives clarify that nothing will set them away from the path of searching for the "Memory, Truth and Justice," and also argue that the killing of "Guacho" does not bring justice as there are still "many questions that have not been answered and many doubts that neither Ecuador nor Colombia, have been willing to clarify." Highlighting that the measures taken during the kidnapping crisis, the investigations and after the killing, "make us see the gestation of a road towards impunity."
A todos los que nos acompañaron y apoyaron, de cualquier forma y desde todos los rincones, les enviamos nuestro más profundo y sincero agradecimiento. Ahora empezamos una nueva etapa; por Javier, Efraín y Paúl, memoria, verdad y justicia. #NoALaImpunidad #SiempreNosFaltarán3 pic.twitter.com/yM0myMlM2e— Nos Faltan Tres (@nosfaltan3) 2 de julio de 2018
The Ecuadorean government, through the Communications National Secretary, released a statement to "recognize and thank the actions of the Colombian Forces of the order, for having located the criminal." President Lenin Moreno tweeted the statement and wrote that "the fall of alias "Guacho" is a coordinated work between sister nations. Thanks to Colombia yesterday he was killed."
Some social media users have been skeptical about the official story from the governments of Colombia and Ecuador, arguing that the person who was killed was not "Guacho."
On Tuesday, an audio recording with controversial statements of President Lenin Moreno was leaked by La Posta, an Ecuadorean web media outlet. On the audio, Moreno said that he was "very sorry for all those deaths that may come after this situation, but I think we are clear that we can not have a State cornered."
In March, the Oliver Sinisterra Front, an armed group, kidnapped journalist Paul Rivas, photographer Javier Ortega and driver Efrain Segarra from the Ecuadorean news outlet El Comercio, while they were investigating the outbreak of violence along the border between Ecuador and Colombia. The group later executed the men after the Ecuadorean government failed to meet their demands, including the release of several of its members from prison.