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The Venezuelans who disappeared in the Colombian Jungle

The narrow victory of the No in the plebiscite called by the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to endorse the peace agreement reached by FARC in Havana, Cuba, represents a stop along the way, perhaps the last stop, before the internal conflict ceases. With the imminent conversations that ELN will also initiate in Quito, the relatives of the persons disappeared in the state of Barinas wonder if their relatives, alive or dead, remain in the hands of FARC.

10/23/2016 4:21:37 PM

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Barinas.- Most kidnapped by FARC in Venezuela lived in Barinas, the home state of the leader of the self-styled Bolivarian revolution, Hugo Chávez.

In that province of the western plains the disappearances of young people without apparent reason increased in 2009. In that year, it was learned of the abduction of two infants. The small Ben Jing Shoung Cano, of three years of age, son of the well-known merchant of Chinese origin Leo Shoung —rescued safe and sound after remaining several days in the power of a group of Colombian and Venezuelan bandits— was perhaps the most relevant because it generated a 24-hour protest, which included the closure of stores run by Chinese and Arabs, who usually turn their backs on this kind of demonstrations when they are called by political parties.

It was a milestone in the recent history of the region. Dozens of people stood with banners in the well-known traffic circle of Cada (the old supermarket already disappeared) to demand the release of the minors. Suddenly, the community was aware of what was happening. Many young people disappeared and no one ever heard from them again. Week after week, people learnt about new cases. News came about dead youngsters. It was the same pattern.

But Wilfredo Valero was not the only one. Many cases were reported, the list grew every week and also the suspicions that some disappeared could be in the hands of the Colombian guerrillas.

Shoes as proof of life. Alfonso Alejandro Briceño Piña was kidnapped on January 29, 2010.

He was then 20 years old and was in the third semester of Tax Administration. He is the eldest son of Rosa Gisela Piña. She has had to cope with widowhood in the absence of Alfonso, her pillar.

"They told us to look for him by ourselves, to call the auto repair shop to declare, but we have not heard anything," she recalled. Alfonso was taken from an auto body shop very close to the Barinas Airport. Four men threatened him with a gun in front of the owner of the repair shop. That afternoon, he coincided in the business with an official from the Venezuelan Investigative and Criminal Police Corps (CICPC), who was having his car repaired.

Alfonso, very fond of showing off his little "chimonera", where chimó is prepared, a tobacco-based product, commonly used in the Andean and states and the plains) did not seem to be a potential victim of kidnapping. "Maybe they thought we had money," speculates Rosa.