A well-known columnist and journalist who had been missing for almost a week was released by leftist guerrillas on Friday near the town of Ocaña in the northeastern part of the country.
Salud Heranández-Mora, a Spanish journalist who has lived in Colombia since the 1990s, told El Tiempo newspaper that she was held against her will by the National Liberation Army but that she had been treated well and was in good health.
“Thanks to all of those people who prayed for me and who were with me,” she told a Catholic radio station. “I am perfectly fine, there are no problems.”
Ramon Torrado, a priest who partook in the humanitarian mission, said she seemed exhausted but otherwise in excellent health, according to The Associated Press.
Her release is raising hopes that two other journalists, Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo, will also be released soon.
Heranández told El Tiempo — the newspaper for which she writes a weekly column — that she was not in contact with the two RCN journalists, who had gone to the region to cover her disappearance when they were also detained.
Hernández went missing on Saturday in the Catatumbo region, an area that is rife with coca farms and various guerrilla groups along the border with Venezuela.
On Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suggested Hernández might have met up with the ELN by choice for a story she was working on. By Thursday, however, officials, including the Minister of Defense, were calling it a kidnapping.
The ELN has not publicly acknowledged that Hernández had been in its custody.
Hernández is a well-known correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo and a columnist for El Tiempo, Bogotá’s leading daily, for which she often writes scathing editorials about the government’s efforts to reach a negotiated peace with guerrillas.
The ELN had announced in March that it was prepared to enter formal peace talks, but little progress has been reported since. And the government has said the group needs to release all of its hostages before negotiations can proceed.
On Friday, Santos was in the Catatumbo region, presiding over a security-council meeting.
“From Tibú, I want to celebrate the return of Salud Hernández. It’s news that fills all Colombians and the world with joy,” Santos said in a statement. “But at the same time, I want to demand the immediate release of the RCN journalists who remain in the hands of the ELN.”