Catholic charity CAFOD has praised the efforts of Catholic Church officials after the father of Liverpool FC player Luis Díaz was released by left-wing guerrillas.
The Columbian gunmen had kidnapped Luis Manuel Díaz 13 days ago but after extensive and deklicate negotiations he was handed over to United Nations and Catholic Church officials by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Monsignor Hector Fabio Henao (left) with Luis Manuel Díaz (centre)
He was abducted on 28th October in the family’s hometown, Barrancas.
The footballer’s mother was also seized, but was freed within hours.
Local media said Mr Díaz had travelled by military helicopter to the city of Valledupar, where he would undergo a medical examination before being returned to his family.
They also quoted authorities as saying that he was in a good state of health, with no signs of mistreatment.
According to El Tiempo newspaper, there were tearful scenes in the neighbourhood where the couple lived, with family members taking to their cars to drive through the streets in celebration.
Most of them were dressed in Liverpool team shirts bearing the number 23 and Luis Díaz’s name.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports that the footballer was “really happy”.
“We are delighted by the news of [Luis Díaz’s] father’s safe return and we thank all those involved in securing his release,” the club said on Twitter.
Luis Alfonso Díaz, a cousin of the footballer’s father, told Caracol Radio that it was “emotional” to learn that he had been freed “after so many days of sadness”.
“We feel a great satisfaction, we are glad that it’s come to an end,” he added.
President Gustavo Petro reacted on X, formerly Twitter, with the message: “Long live Freedom and Peace.”
The Colombian Football Federation issued a statement thanking all those responsible for Luis Manuel Díaz’s release, including the government, the military and the police.
It added: “Football is passion in peace. Let no-one ever think of attacking that reality again.”
The kidnapping caused outrage in Colombia, where Luis Díaz – who is part of Colombia’s national team – is immensely popular.
His Liverpool team has also shown its unwavering support. Díaz scored a goal against Luton Town on Sunday, lifting his shirt to reveal the words in Spanish “freedom for papa”.
“We are delighted to see the safe release of Liverpool FC’s Luis Díaz’s father in Colombia,” said Ulrike Beck, CAFOD’s Colombia Programme Officer.
“Luis Manuel Díaz was handed over to UN and Catholic Church officials, which included CAFOD’s long-standing partner, Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao.
“The Catholic Church has played a key role in peace negotiations in Colombia and is one of the four stakeholders of the current ceasefire between the ELN armed group and the government which has been in place since August (alongside the Colombian Government, ELN and UN).
“We are proud to support Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao, who is respected and renowned in Colombia and around the world. He has worked for decades on promoting peace, human rights and an end to the armed conflict. In December 2003 he led talks resulting in the release of British hostage Mark Henderson and six other foreign tourists held by ELN guerrillas.”
- CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. It works with communities across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to fight poverty and injustice. The agency works with people in need regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality (cafod.org.uk).