Sunday, 16 March 2008

Hostages freed.

This report from Associated Press;

PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala (AP) — Four Belgian tourists held hostage by protesting farmers were released late Saturday after security forces in boats and helicopters located the group in Guatemala's eastern jungle, officials said.

The four Belgians, their Guatemalan guide and a boat operator were traveling in a tourist area 155 miles northeast of Guatemala City when they were abducted Friday by farmers demanding the release of their jailed leader.

Authorities had been negotiating with the kidnappers, while at the same time 150 police officers in boats and soldiers in helicopters searched the jungle area for the hostages to mount a rescue mission if talks failed, officials said.

Late Saturday, Ronaldo Robles, the communications secretary of Guatemala's presidency, said the Belgians were free. "We can confirm that the Belgian citizens in the hands of the farmers have been freed," Robles told The Associated Press by telephone.

Luis Chol, a member of the farmers' group that took the six hostages, said they were forced to release the Belgians because they were being attacked.

The police "followed us and attacked us and killed one of our comrades," Chol told the AP by telephone.

Robles denied anyone was killed. He said the hostages will be taken to a naval base on the Guatemalan Caribbean and then flown to Guatemala City early Sunday.

So another moment of drama draws to a close on the Rio. But somehow we don't think this will be the final act of this play...

The incident took place down river from here, so my concerns that it was becoming too close for comfort were unfounded. The group responsible for these events is operating within their own, relatively small, geographical territory.

These events have, without doubt persuaded numbers of travelers to avoid the Rio, and I must admit to feeling a little uneasy myself, even though none of them have had any personal repercussions on our own way of life.

TBH however assures me that in his experience of living within areas of civil unrest(South Africa, Uganda, the Middle East) there is nothing here that is even vaguely threatening to the general wellbeing of the visitors to the Rio. After all if we wanted Disneyland we could have gone there! Good point!

Traveling has made me acutely aware that I am a voyeur of the lives of others, often those who live in circumstances which, to me, appear to be greatly disadvantaged. But who I am to judge? What can I know about the desperation of real poverty, of dislocation? It can be an uncomfortable edge to live on but boy is it a fascinating one. How I wish I had taken these opportunities earlier in my life.

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