Jorge Gutiérrez, photojournalist of EL DEBER, recounted the moments of distress who lived, along with 16 other people, at the Las Londras ranch, located in the municipality of El Puente in the Guarayos province, where they were deprived of their liberty by almost a hundred bullies, who insulted them and threatened to kill them.
“For a moment I thought that I would not get out of there alive, they were hours of great tension, but as the people calmed down and the colonel (Rolando Torrico) was managing our release, my soul returned to my body, “said Jorge in telephone contact with EL DUE, from the municipality of Minero, where they are sheltered together to the other press workers.
On Thursday morning, the photojournalist of the EL DEBER Group traveled with the press teams of Unitel, Red Uno, ATB and PAT to the Las Londras property, to collect images of the place, after a confrontation with the overpowers and four workers at the site were wounded by gunshot wounds.
The Association of Oilseed and Wheat Producers (Anapo) organized the trip and transported the workers in two planes of the press from El Trompillo Airport to the property of EL Puente. The owners and workers of the hacienda also participated in this expedition. In total there were 20 people, of which three managed to escape the abduction.
Jorge reported that before landing, the aircraft in which they were transported made an overflight and this allowed sighting three camps in the devastated place. The entourage moved there at 11:00 am, aboard six vans.
The delegation of journalists, accompanied by the owners and workers of the properties, met with the Commander of the Chiquitania Police, Rolando Torrico, and three troops, who came to dialogue with the peasants who were settled.
“The commander spoke with the people to find out if they wanted to speak to the press while we (journalists) stayed a few meters away. 20 minutes passed and we saw that they beat the colonel and the three troops, they knocked them to the ground and they kicked them. It was there when I thought; If that happens to the commander, what awaits us, ”he said.
Faced with this violent situation, the delegation boarded the six vans to leave the place in order to protect their lives, but on the way they were ambushed by a score of hooded men who left the mountain, stopped in the middle of the road and shot the tires of the motorized vehicles.
Four vehicles were detained by the assailants, but minutes later they managed to intercept another truck, which they left abandoned and only removed its occupants. The sixth motorized man escaped, along with Roger Ticona, a journalist from PAT, Ronny Roca, one of the owners of the subjugated property, and a worker. These three people arrived at the runway where the plane was, 10 kilometers from the place, and notified the authorities of the fact, and then returned to the El Trompillo airport on Thursday afternoon.
The 17 people who could not flee, were put a little down and received several kicks. TO press workers took two cameras away, they threw her to the ground and shot them to damage the images taken, Jorge said.
“Percy (Suárez) from ATB was hit because he protected his camera and despite that he didn’t let go of it, and that’s why They hit him with a stick to remove it and damage it with a shot. Unitel and Red Uno equipment were also destroyed and since I had not yet taken my camera out of the truck, as a precaution, I was able to protect it, ”he explained.
While, the four policemen, including the Chiquitania commander, had their weapons taken away of fire and together with the other hostages, they were put into the vehicles, which had some flat tires, to take them to a shed, where about 70 people were waiting for them.
“On that journey, we saw that a plane took off and passed at a low altitude and close to us. It was then that the hooded they drew their weapons and started shooting at him. They were constant shots for several minutes, at that moment I just crouched down to prevent a projectile from hitting me. Fortunately, the aircraft passed and I think Roger from PAT was returning there ”, he said.
Once they were transferred to the sheds, their cell phones and wallets were taken from them. They were later turned upside down for questioning and beating. “They asked us what who brought us and how much they paid us and said they were going to kill us by burning us”, Silvia Gómez, a Unitel reporter, told through tears.
After noon, the nearly one hundred peasants scattered and few were left, which helped calm the tension in the place. This is how they gave water and then food to the abducted people and Commander Torrico took the opportunity to talk and ask that they be released.
The bullies acceded to the request of the police chief, but they made a commitment to be signed together with all affected, to silence all the abuses they suffered, especially the fact that they were armed.
“Us They asked that we not say that we were ambushed, that they had no weapons and that we make up another incident to explain the damage to the cameras. The colonel even received a call from the commander of Santa Cruz (Orlando Ponce) and had to say that we were not kidnapped and that we were there without pressure. This is so that the peasants can free us, ”he added.
After 6:00 p.m. they were all released, including the police, who changed the tires of the trucks and sand transferred to the municipality of Minero, where they are sheltered by a strong police contingent.