A group of people gathered on Tuesday in Barranquilla to march for the release of Luis Manuel Díaz Jiménez, the father of start Colombia national team and Liverpool FC player Luis Díaz.
Luis Manuel has been detained for six days since he and the football player’s mother, Cilenis Marulanda, were kidnapped on Saturday from a gas station in their home department of La Guajira by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas, according to the Colombian government.
Marulanda was released a few hours later, but the status of Luis Manuel remains uncertain.
“Today we have official knowledge that the kidnapping of Luis Manuel Díaz and Cilenis Marulanda, father and mother of soccer player Luis Fernando Díaz Marulanda, on October 28 in Barrancas, department of La Guajira, was perpetrated by a unit belonging to the ELN,” said the statement signed by Otty Patiño, chief government peace negotiator with the ELN.
In a statement, the Colombian government added: “To the ELN, we demand the immediate release of Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz, and we remind them that it is their entire responsibility to guarantee his life and integrity … We remind the ELN that kidnapping is a criminal practice, in violation of international humanitarian law, and that it is their duty in the development of the current peace process, not only to stop carrying it out, but also to eliminate it forever.”
The Ongoing Investigation for Luis Manuel
General William René Salamanca, director of the Colombian National Police, announced a reward of up to 200 million pesos for providing information on the whereabouts of the soccer player’s father.
Salamanca also posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that a special unit, including canines, are searching for Luis Manuel.
“Laticha and Tekila, canine experts in tracking human beings, joined today the search for Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz, in the vicinity of the #Perijá mountain range, under the protection and leadership of guides from the Special Emergency Operations Unit.”
There are, according to Salamanca, 130 men of the Colombian Police looking for the father of Luis Díaz, and authorities have told the footballer not to travel to Colombia due to security issues.
An Outpouring of Support for Lucho
From Liverpool to the Caribbean coast to fans across the world, the Colombian star known as “Lucho” continues to receive an outpouring of support and compassion.
On Sunday, 31 minutes into the first half of a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, the Portuguese Diego Jota opened the scoring and in celebration took out a Díaz jersey. He held it up and everyone in the Anfield Road stadium applauded.
The Colombian national team posted this message across its social media channels: “We ask the kidnappers of Luis Manuel Díaz, father of @LuisFDiaz19, to release him soon, without conditions. Soccer is peace, Lucho we are with you, Colombia is with you.”
#Fútbol⚽| Uno de los jugadores del Liverpool se mostró solidario con Luis Díaz (@LuisFDiaz19), tras la noticia del secuestro de sus padres. Conozca los detalles de este emotivo momento. https://t.co/U6h2m9ZRak
— Kienyke (@kienyke) October 29, 2023
The Kidnapping and Search in La Guajira
The place where “Mane,” as Luis Manuel is called, was kidnapped is a difficult area with little law enforcement. The Serranía del Perijá is a thick mountainous jungle where the state has never had a presence, it is on the border with Venezuela and criminal gangs fight for the transport of drugs and contraband.
“The criminals began to flee in the car of the relatives of Luis Díaz,” reported Colombian magazine Semana. “When they were surrounded, they used three motorcycles, two of them stolen. Finally, they left by the trails. The authorities are investigating another vehicle, a gray, armored Mazda, of Venezuelan origin”
“We are with the teams on the ground in La Guajira, we are with the director of the CTI, the deputy attorney general is also in charge of the operation,” said Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa at a recent press conference.
“We hope that the National Police with the Army will continue this search, but unfortunately there is also the possibility that this person could leave or could be taken to Venezuela. And in that case, if there is a transfer of Luis Díaz’s father to Venezuela we will have to ask President Gustavo Petro to help us, because he is the one who has contact with those authorities,” Barbosa continued.
(Photo courtesy of the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol)