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Mother of children rescued from Colombian jungle was alive for four days

The father of the infants, Manuel Ranoque, has shared details of their 40-day ordeal in the Amazon, and warned that FARC dissidents have threatened to kill him

Children rescued from Colombian jungle
Manuel Ranoque, the father of the rescued children, arrives at the Bogotá military hospital.RAUL ARBOLEDA (AFP)

Magdalena Mucutuy, the mother of the four children who were lost for more than a month in the Amazon jungle in Colombia, was alive for four days after their plane crashed on May 1. That’s according to Manuel Ranoque, the father of the children, who shared some of the details of what he has learned about their 40-day ordeal in the jungle.

The mother and the four children — 13-year-old Lesly, Soleiny (nine), Tien Noriel (five) and Cristin Neriman (12 months) — boarded the plane in Araracuara, a town in the heart of the Amazon, and were supposed to arrive in San José del Guaviare, where they were going to meet Ranoque. He was governor of the Uitoto Los Monos indigenous reservation, but had fled from Araracuara after being threatened by guerrillas. He hoped to start a new life with his whole family in Bogotá, the capital of the country.

But the plane crashed, killing the three adults on board, and leaving the four children alone in the inhospitable jungle. A search team made up of soldiers and indigenous people found them 40 days later.

Speaking outside the Military Hospital in Bogotá, where the children remain hospitalized, Ranoque said: “The only thing that she [Leslie] has clarified for me is that their mother was alive for four days. Before she died, their mom told them something like, ‘You guys get out of here. You guys are going to see the kind of man your dad is, and he’s going to show you the same kind of great love that I have shown you.’” The bodies of Magdalena Mucutuy and the two other adults were found in mid-May, when the plane wreck was located.

Ranoque also spoke of his trust in the jungle, which he considers an entity with a life of its own. “We believe a lot in the jungle, which is our mother,” he said. “That’s why I always had faith and told myself: ‘The jungle and nature have never betrayed me.’”

Luis Acosta, the national coordinator of the Indigenous Guard, expressed a similar view, claiming it was the jungle that had delivered the children back. He also highlighted how the children were found thanks to the joint work of the army and the indigenous people.

The children’s grandfather Fidencio Valencia added that the children are fine, but still recovering. “They are very exhausted, they have little wounds, they have bumps [...] they came out with the illnesses of the jungle [...] but they are fine, in good hands.” Although they were found in a frail condition, they are recovering well in hospital, with treatment that includes a soft diet, psychological attention and traditional care from indigenous peoples. On Saturday, they received a visit from Colombian President Gustavo Petro, while Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez said they were in “acceptable” medical condition.

“The Carolina Ramírez Front is looking to kill me”

In his statement to the press, Ranoque also said that he has been threatened by the Carolina Ramírez Front, a guerrilla group made up of dissidents from the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“The Carolina Ramírez Front is looking for me to kill me. I have received threats because I am a target for them. I know that those shameless people will start using my children to pressure me, and I am never going to allow that,” he said. Ranoque added that he had recordings that proved he was being threatened, and claimed they could target him in Bogotá. “They have an economic interest, and while you don’t do as they say, you are their enemy. They are going to look directly for me here, they are going to send someone directly here.”

Ranoque told the press that he needed to make sure his children have a safe and “dignified home.” “I need to guarantee my children’s education. I need to make sure that my life and that of my children is safe,” he said.

The father also expressed his discomfort over the photos taken of his children in hospital and shared on social media. “I object to that. What gives them the right to use my children as objects of ridicule?” he said. “They let them come in and take photos of my children and put them on social media. That’s unfair. I hope God forgives them.”

Finally, Ranoque called on the government to compensate the indigenous people who took part in the search, explaining that he is receiving requests for money due to the incorrect belief that he received something from the authorities. “President, respect our principles as an indigenous people. I hope you compensate all my comrades who were involved in the search. The truth is, I don’t even have enough money to buy my comrades a coffee.”

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