The families of the kidnapped and slain Ecuadorean journalists and driver confirmed on Monday that the remains of their relatives who went missing three months ago - journalist, Javier Ortega; Paul Rivas, photographer and driver, Efrain Segarra - have been identified.
"Today, June 25, three months after their trip to San Lorenzo (Ecuador), it has been determined that the bodies found by Colombian authorities in the rural area in the Nariño department are the journalist team kidnapped on March 26," said the families in a joint communique.
Colombia’s Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez confirmed these statements.
The three were kidnapped and murdered by the Oliver Sinisterra Front.
In a press conference outside the Institute of Legal Medicine in Cali, Martinez announced: "At noon today we have met with the relatives of the victims. After analyzing the work of the Institute of Legal Medicine, which ended early Monday morning, the relatives have been informed that the bodies belong to the three Ecuadorian journalists" said the attorney general.
Last week, outgoing Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos tweeted that authorities may have found the remains of the three still missing.
It wasn’t until Monday after the medical institute could make DNA comparisons with the victims’ families and interview them extensively regarding any scars, marks or tattoos the slain may have had, that authorities in both countries could unequivocally confirm the identity of the bodies.
Last Friday the institute tweeted that the dental charts of the three murdered were "totally insufficient" to confirm if they were the remains of the those who worked at El Comercio. The bodies were in too far a state of decomposition making DNA comparisons with their likely living relatives in Ecuador necessary to confirm the identities of those found in Tumaco, Colombia at the border with Ecuador.
The public tweeting by government authorities in both Colombia and Ecuador over the topic prompted the families to release a statement that authorities refrain from using tweets to communicate about such a delicate matter.
On Monday, the families told the public: "We insist that NO ONE FORGETS this, that there is NO IMPUNITY, and there is NO REPETITION (of these events). These kidnappings and killings cannot become normal, they can't become naturalized. And those responsible at all levels must be established."
Ecuador’s office of foreign affairs confirmed in a press conference on Monday that the bodies of Ortega, Riva, and Segarra will be repatriated to their home country on Wednesday. Colombian foreign affairs ministry said the bodies "will be delivered to the Ecuadorian authorities, who have already arranged air transportation from Cali to do so."
In late March the Oliver Sinisterra Front - an armed group operating along the Colombia-Ecuador border and headed by Walter Patricio Artizala Vernaza, also known as 'El Guacho' - kidnapped the three members of El Comercio while they were investigating the uptick in violence at Ecuador’s border, which El Guacho is suspected of committing. They were reported killed April 13 by Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno.
In a meeting last night with the families of the slain, the ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Negret told them, “We will find the truth about what happened to these Ecuadorean citizens.” A lawyer for the family of those killed, Javier Andrade, told the press that he will have access to the information that Colombia has already accumulated in the investigation and that both countries will "directly cooperate" to resolve the murders.
The families gave their thanks to Ecuador and Colombia and asked for their continued support: "With all our hearts we express our appreciation to the families of Ecuador and Colombia for your solidarity, ... to civil society for reacting and to the Ecuadorean and Colombian press for continuing to pay tribute to our beloved. ... We hope to count on your presence and dedication until truth, justice, and memory have come."