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Buenaventura journalist forced by guerrilla group to broadcast message

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 25 January 2008, members of the guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) contacted journalist Luis Suárez demanding he meet with Erminson Gutiérrez, a.k.a. "Mincho", leader of the Bloque 30 division of the FARC, in Buenaventura, western Colombia. Suárez is director and host of the programme "Todo por Buenaventura" on Telemar Canal 2 television station.

According to Suárez, he refused to attend, but then received six telephone calls warning him that his attendance was obligatory and that if he did not come willingly, they would seek him out.

The journalist told IPYS that, on 27 January, he was taken by the guerrilla group to a beach by motorboat, where a white man of around 70 years of age received him. The man was wearing a military uniform and carried a rifle. He identified himself as "Mincho" and told Suárez that he wanted the journalist to broadcast a message on his programme regarding the FARC's plans for 2008.

On 29 January, the journalist recounted his experience on his programme and broadcast his interview with "Mincho". It was believed, until this encounter, that Gutiérrez had died in combat.

On 5 February, Buenaventura police commander Ramiro Tobo Peña told IPYS that the police are investigating the case. He stated that he will compare the voice recorded in Suárez's interview with earlier recordings on file of Gutiérrez's voice, to determine if Gutiérrez was in fact the man Suárez interviewed. According to other journalists who listened to the interview, it is the guerrilla fighter's voice.

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