December 17, 2018 / 2:49 PM / a month ago

Colombia's armed forces rescue kidnapped Garcia Marquez relative

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A relative of late Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature, was rescued from kidnappers on Monday by members of the armed forces, President Ivan Duque said.

Garcia Marquez’s great niece, Melissa Martinez Garcia, 34, was seized at the end of August by a group of armed men who intercepted her vehicle near the northern city of Santa Marta along the Caribbean coast. They demanded a ransom of $5 million for her release.

    “In a coordinated operation by the armed forces, Melissa Martinez Garcia was freed,” Duque told reporters. “It was an impeccable operation of human and strategic intelligence for several months to preserve her life.”

Martinez Garcia is the granddaughter of Jaime Garcia Marquez, the brother of the writer, who died in 2014 at 87.

    The outgoing director of the national police force, General Jorge Hernando Nieto, told local radio that Martinez Garcia had been taken by a group of former right-wing paramilitaries.

    He said 15 people were captured during the rescue operation.

Kidnapping for ransom has been a frequent source of funding during Colombia’s armed conflict, which has lasted more than 50 years and killed over 260,000 people. Leftist guerrillas, crime gangs and right-wing paramilitaries have seized thousands over the years.

    Common criminals also kidnap people in exchange for ransoms in the millions in the Andean nation, which registered about 3,000 kidnappings in the 1990s.

In 2017, 193 kidnappings were reported, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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