Luis Díaz Sr., the father of Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz, has been released by left-wing guerrilla group ELN (National Liberation Army) after being held captive for 13 days. The ELN handed over Luis Díaz Sr. to representatives of the United Nations and the Catholic Church, ending international speculation and growing concern for his safety.
The kidnapping took place on October 28 in Barrancas, Colombia, where armed men abducted both Luis Díaz’s parents at a gas station. While Luis Díaz’s mother was freed hours later, his father was taken away on a motorbike. The situation drew global attention, with Luis Díaz making a heartfelt plea for his father’s release after scoring in a Premier League match.
The release was facilitated by the United Nations and the Catholic Church, with UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric stating that they were involved in the operation, using helicopters and planes. Luis Díaz Sr. underwent a medical examination in Valledupar before being reunited with his family.
The ELN initially denied involvement, but a government delegation negotiating with armed groups later revealed ELN’s responsibility, prompting international efforts to secure Luis Díaz Sr.’s release. The ELN, in a statement, called the kidnapping a mistake and cited military deployments hindering the planned release.
The news of Luis Díaz Sr.’s freedom brought tears of relief and joy among the crowd gathered in Barrancas, with emotional scenes capturing his return home. The Colombian government’s Peace Delegation and the ELN welcomed the release, but the delegation emphasized that the kidnapping should never have happened and called for the immediate release of all ELN captives in future peace talks.
Luis Díaz Jr., the 26-year-old Liverpool striker, expressed his happiness at the news and started for Liverpool in their Europa League match against Toulouse shortly after his father’s release. The kidnapping had cast a spotlight on human rights violations by the ELN, jeopardizing peace negotiations with the Colombian government. The situation prompted calls for an end to kidnapping practices by illegal armed groups in Colombia.
The Colombian Football Federation, Liverpool FC, and fans worldwide celebrated the safe return of Luis Díaz Sr., emphasizing the significance of football in promoting peace. Despite the relief, questions linger about the true identity of the kidnappers and the circumstances surrounding Luis Díaz Sr.’s release.