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LATIN AMERICA | 11-06-2021 18:53

Colombia militant jailed for 28 years for Ecuador press murders

Gustavo Angulo Arboleda, also known as "Cherry", confessed to abducting and killing of two journalists and their driver on the border between Ecuador and Colombia.

A member of a splinter group from Colombia's FARC ex-guerrilla organization was sentenced Friday to 28 years in prison for the kidnap and murder of an Ecuadoran press team in 2018, prosecutors said. 

Gustavo Angulo Arboleda, also known as "Cherry", confessed to participating in the abduction and killing of two journalists from the daily El Comercio, as well as their driver, on the border between Ecuador and Colombia. He was also fined the equivalent of $1.2 million. 

"The victims were kidnapped by members of the Oliver Sinisterra group, a breakaway group of the FARC, in the province of Esmeraldas (Ecuador) on March 26, 2018," then "transferred to Colombian territory and delivered to Cherry," the prosecutor's office said in a statement. 

Prosecutors said Angulo Arboleda was part of the group in charge of guarding the hostages, until the Ecuadoran head of the splinter group, known as "Guacho," ordered the murder of reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and driver Efrain Segarra, 60. 

Their bodies were found three months after the kidnapping in a pit dug on the Colombian side of the border, in the southern region of Nariño, one of the largest areas under drug cultivation in the world. 

Guacho, whose real name was Walther Arizala, was killed by Colombian soldiers in December 2018. 

Angulo Arboleda asked for forgiveness from the families of the victims, the prosecution said. 

In March, another member of the same group, Jesús Vargas, also known as Reinel, was sentenced to 28 years and eight months in prison. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said in a report that the measures taken by Ecuador to protect the El Comercio press team had "been insufficient."

The various armed groups that broke away from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, after it signed a historic peace deal in 2016, lack a unified command structure but number around 2,500 combatants. 

They are financed mainly by drug trafficking as well as clandestine gold mines, according to the military intelligence service.

— AFP

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