News / Americas

Colombia's ELN Rebels Free Canadian Geologist

Former ELN rebels hostage Canadian Jernoc Wobert waves upon his arrival to Barrancabermeja's airport, Colombia, Aug. 27, 2013.
Former ELN rebels hostage Canadian Jernoc Wobert waves upon his arrival to Barrancabermeja's airport, Colombia, Aug. 27, 2013.
Reuters
Colombia's ELN rebels freed a Canadian geologist they had held captive for seven months on Tuesday, meeting one of the demands by President Juan Manuel Santos to enable the start of peace talks with the insurgent group.

Jernoc Wobert was seized on Jan. 18 in northern Bolivar province along with two Peruvian and three Colombian miners contracted by the Toronto-based Braeval Mining gold mining company. His colleagues were later freed by the leftist ELN, or National Liberation Army, the smaller of two rebel groups fighting the government for almost five decades.

Wobert was released in a rural area to a mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross and has been examined by a doctor, said ICRC spokesman Jordi Raich in a statement.

Santos has conditioned any peace talks with the ELN on freeing Wobert and all other captives it holds in the nation's jungles. ELN leaders have expressed interest in starting peace negotiations similar to those currently under way with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

It is not known how many hostages the group holds.

“We hope that this effort contributes to a healthy exchange and support for peace in Colombia,” ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez said in a video posted on the group's website. He said the release was a humanitarian gesture.

The ELN, which is against mining by foreign companies in Colombia, pledged to free Wobert after Toronto-based Braeval said last month it would no longer mine in the area where he was kidnapped. The company did not link the decision to Wobert's capture.

Efforts to rid Colombia of its reputation as one of the most dangerous places to do business has led to a rush of investment into areas that were once off-limits.

Colombia, a nation of 47 million people, has attracted record foreign direct investment in recent years as troops push the guerrilla groups deeper into inhospitable jungles.

While oil and mining companies have been able to work in more remote and dangerous areas in recent years, the risk to employees continues. Both the ELN and FARC have stepped up attacks on the infrastructure this year, hitting oil pipelines and power lines repeatedly.

The ELN has battled a dozen governments since it was founded in 1964 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

Inspired by the Cuban revolution and established by radical Catholic priests, the ELN was close to disappearing in the 1970s but gradually regained strength. By 2002 it had as many as 5,000 fighters, financed by “war taxes” levied on landowners and oil companies.

The ELN is now believed to have about 3,000 fighters. It has sought peace before, holding talks with the Colombian government in Cuba and Venezuela between 2002 and 2007. Experts say there was a lack of will on both sides to agree a final peace plan.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Aviation Leaders to Seek Mandate on Safety Standards

Standards for global plane tracking, cooperation on risks of flying over conflict zones will dominate a meeting set for Feb. 2-5 in Montreal
More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York
More

US Seeks to Break Up Drug Ring

Alleged drug ring accused of smuggling cocaine and laundering money from Venezuela to the United States
More

Senators Introduce Bill to End Ban on Americans Traveling to Cuba

Some Cuban American lawmakers strongly oppose Obama administration’s sudden shift in US policy towards Cuba, others say it is past time to end embargo
More

At Mexican Hospital, Rescuers Search for Blast Victims

At least 2 people killed and dozens wounded, including 22 children, when tanker truck explodes outside building
More

HRW: Security Measures Erode Human Rights Worldwide

New Human Rights Watch report cites Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Israel and the United States among nations using security concerns to justify rights violations
More