Brazilian Spent 3 Months in Captivity in Colombia

José Matias and his companion, Swiss Daniel Max Guggenheim, were in the hands of FARC dissidents for three months

São Paulo

"We are here, blindfolded, in a dark room. I know nothing. It is not to speak to the Army, especially that of Colombia, for God's sake."

The voice is José Ivan Albuquerque Matias, 50, a Brazilian who spent three months kidnapped by a guerrilla in the interior of Colombia. His sister, who lives in Porto Alegre, recorded one of the few calls the family received during captivity.

Released on the 18th, Matias, as he is known, is in a hotel with a military escort in Bogotá, undergoing medical examinations and psychological treatment while waiting for his flight to leave the country, scheduled for this Saturday (27).

He lost 20 kg in that period, fell and hit his head during a captivity exchange, and was ill a few times with bouts of hypertension. Now, he is well physically but has difficulty sleeping and constant nightmares.

A former welder and sales technician, Matias was kidnapped by dissidents from the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) on March 16 during a tourist trip he was making with Swiss retiree Daniel Max Guggenheim, 67, his companion for ten years.

Daniel Guggenheim and José Ivan Albuquerque Matias

The couple's two dogs, the Pomeranian lulus Fifi and Preto, were also captured and, surprisingly, survived captivity.

The couple got lost on the road in the Cauca region, on the way from the city of Corinto to La Plata, and the GPS took them to an unpaved terrain dominated by the guerrillas. When they stopped to ask for information at a grocery store, two men approached them.

"We were asked what we were doing there, they said it was a red zone, you could only enter with their permission," says Matias. "And they said: here there is no road to La Plata, here the only way is to the cemetery."

They were then blindfolded and taken to the first of the 11 houses where they were at the time of the kidnapping. Each time the Army approached, they were transferred, always during the night, sometimes covering several kilometers.

The guerrillas belong to the Column Mobile Dagoberto Ramos, one of the groups founded by former FARC members who resisted handing over their weapons in the 2016 peace agreement, signed after more than half a century of a conflict that left tens of thousands of civilian victims.

That day, Matias had taken two headache remedies and was only able to sleep at 5 am. He woke up at 6:30 am, "a little dizzy", with the sound of the Army helicopter approaching and soldiers shouting "we came for you!" (we came for you).

Paralyzed, he was dragged from the room. "Fifi was scared and went under the bed, Daniel had to shout that we wouldn't leave without the dogs. We managed to catch them. In 10 minutes we were inside the helicopter", says the Brazilian.

Along with the relief and excitement of the rescue, there came the fear that there would be armed guerrillas hiding in the woods. "But no shots were fired," he says.

The man who was watching the couple at that time was arrested. Five days later, the Army announced the arrest of Column leader Dagoberto Ramos, accused of the murders of social leaders and a candidate for mayor of the region, in addition to other crimes.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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