A young Afro-Colombian girl-who was rescued by Indigenous Guards and others-had been kidnapped in late May by mistake according to the FARC rebel group that claimed on June 7 that they had been planning instead to capture her father, a local police official.
During late May and early June however, local media publicized the story of the youngster’s kidnapping and daylong rescue effort lead by Indigenous Guards and an Afro-Colombian community in the Cauca region.
On the morning of May 29, Alejandra Cantoni was kidnapped by unknown men while on her way to school in the town of Guachene which is an Afro-Colombian community. Upon learning of the kidnapping the Guachene community and Cantoni’s family sent out an alert to the nearby towns of Corinto and Toribio, and to the Indigenous Guards of those towns who immediately activated “control sites” located along the local roads and throughout the territory. The family did provide a description of a “white camper truck” as the vehicle used by the kidnappers.
According to a press release of the Indigenous Councils Association of Northern Cauca, known by it’s Spanish language acronym ACIN, the Indigenous Guards and members of the Afro-Colombian community stayed on alert, paying special attention to all of the vehicles traveling throughout the area. Other sources described the sweep conducted by the Indigenous Guards and Afro-Colombians as being done by a “human chain.”
By noon of that Thursday, the Indigenous Guards had located the car that was used by the kidnappers on the outskirts of the towns of Corinto and Toribio, “allowing them to deduce that Alejandra was in that sector,” according to the ACIN press statement. The team of searchers intensified their efforts in and around the town of Toribio, “pressuring the captors to release the girl by early evening in Toribio.”
Catoni was found in the town of Toribio by state authorities and the Indigenous Guard at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, several hours after her abduction that same morning. Cantoni is the daughter of Sgt. Victor Cantoni, commander of the Padilla Police Station and local police and federal soldiers assisted in the search. Prior to discovering the 10 year-old Indigenous Guards had delivered two alleged kidnappers to regional police.
The identities of the two men had not been released as of press time but details of the daylong rescue effort were made public.
A spokesperson for the Indigenous Guards said that, “we don’t need arms to save lives. Our duty is to take care of the territory and protect the beings who live there.”
That same evening, President Santos said on Twitter, “Thank God, through the pressure of the public forces and the community the girl Alejandra Cantoni is free. Those responsible will be investigated.” Neither President Santos nor other sources announced the names of groups involved in the crime.
On June 9 however, the FARC rebel group issued a public apology and admitted that some of their operatives had kidnapped the child “by mistake.”
In a statement posted on the FARC website, the group asserted they were planning to capture Officer Cantoni and that they had planned to execute the action after he dropped his daughter off at school.
“Even us, who upon finding out the news, without knowing that it was the daughter of the superintendent, got ready to cover key units from our sites, to secure her release and catch the kidnappers,” the FARC stated in the letter, adding that they discovered soon after issuing the statement that their Bloque Occidental was responsible for the abduction.