Two German retirees who have been held captive for more than three months by leftist rebels are in good health, Colombia’s anti-kidnapping police chief said Thursday.
The official, Gen. Humberto Guatibonza, also said at a news conference that the two were seized Nov. 3 by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, Colombia’s No. 2. rebel group.
Brothers Guenther Otto Breuer, 72, and Uwe Breuer, 69, were detained while apparently on a global driving journey that had previously taken them to China, Iran, Iraq and much of South America.
The men were kidnapped in the town of Teorama in a turbulent coca-growing zone near Venezuela with a strong guerrilla presence, Guatibonza said. The ELN said it seized them in the nearby town of Convencion.
Guatibonza did not say how he obtained the information, citing only informants. He said they also told police that the ELN originally thought the Breuer brothers were oil workers.
In a communique Monday announcing the Germans’ abduction, the rebel group said only that it had been holding the brothers for “several weeks” and that it would consider them spies until otherwise proven.
Guatibonza said he was withholding further information about the case at the request of the German government. He said the men had last been in touch with relatives on Sept. 30.
A video posted Wednesday evening on the website of the Colombian newsmagazine Semana bolstered the German Embassy’s description of the two as retirees on vacation.
The video, apparently shot shortly before they were captured, shows the white-haired brothers sitting in camping chairs on an unpaved road in central Colombia while eating lunch outside the Toyota in which they say they’ve been traveling the world since leaving Bavaria in 2011.
A panel on a side window of the German-plated car lists the 25 countries they say they have visited.
Speaking in labored Spanish, Guenther Breuer jokes that his brother Uwe knows two words in Spanish, one of which is “cerveza,” or beer.
Guenther Breuer says the men entered Colombia in October from Ecuador and were headed next for Venezuela.
A journalist at Semana, Ricardo Calderon, said it obtained the 20-minute video from a group of Colombians who had come across the brothers by chance. In the video, several men are seen on all-terrain vehicles, which are intentionally blurred.
President Juan Manuel Santos has demanded the men’s immediate release.
The ELN, which numbers fewer than 2,000 fighters, has been agitating for peace talks with the government.
Colombia’s main leftist rebel group, the FARC, began formal peace talks with the government in Cuba in November.
The FARC renounced ransom kidnappings as a condition for entering those talks. The ELN currently holds at least five foreigners, including a Canadian and two Peruvian gold prospectors.