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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Colorful Macaws Bring Beauty to Chaotic Caracas

Long-tailed birds color Venezuelan capital's sky, giving its 5 million residents a moment of quiet respite from noise and crime
More

Colombia's ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail

Commander's comments come as pressure mounts for President Santos to conclude peace talks with far larger FARC group and to show progress with ELN
More

Photogallery Chile Volcano Still Puffing; Flights Canceled in Argentina

Calbuco, which erupted Wednesday without warning, continues to spew ash, smoke
More

Former Spy Master Flees Argentina Amid Threats

Antonio Stiuso contends government is trying to sully his reputation following death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman
More

Chile, Argentina Cancel Flights as Volcanic Ash Cloud Spreads

Argentina's meteorology service forecast ash cloud could reach La Pampa; more than 4,000 people have been evacuated from immediate area
More

Deals Extend Russia's Energy Cooperation With Argentina

Accords underscore Moscow's effort to enhance South American ties since coming under Western sanctions over Ukraine crisis
More