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Inside Colombia's enduring kidnapping ordeal

A poster of Rosalba Ariza, who was kidnapped on 1 November 2016, attached to her husband’s car during a search in the highlands of Cauca (Erika Piñeros/IRIN)

Late last year, Colombia’s Congress approved a revised peace deal with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) that aims to end 52 years of conflict with the country's largest rebel group. But Colombia is far from peaceful. Other armed and criminal groups remain active, as well as some dissident factions of FARC, and kidnapping remains one of their weapons of choice.

While Colombia may no longer be the kidnapping capital of the world – a title it earned in the 1990s – 188 people were abducted in 2016, according to the country’s counter-kidnapping agency, and many other cases go unreported. Families of kidnap victims complain that they receive little state support or media attention. One of the few efforts to shine a light on their suffering is a radio programme called “Voices of Kidnapping” that allows people to “speak” to loved ones who’ve been kidnapped. Creator and host of the programme Herbin Hoyos has been an advocate for kidnap victims and their families for over 22 years. In December, he joined the search for Rosalba Azira, a school teacher who was abducted in Cauca, in the south-west of the country.

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