Gabriel García Márquez was approached by his friends Maruja Pachón de Villamizar and Alberto Villamizar in 1993 to write a book about the ordeal surrounding Maruja's abduction. García Márquez recalls that he was working on the first draft when he realized "it was impossible to separate her kidnapping from nine other abductions that occurred at the same time in Colombia." García Márquez decided to broaden his work to include the stories of all these captives, which lengthened the project to almost three years. The result is News of a Kidnapping, which was first published in Spanish in 1996 and in English the following year. In this work, García Márquez takes on the gargantuan task of describing the kidnappings and captivity of ten people. He depicts their families' reactions to these events as well as their efforts to free the hostages, but also attempts to place the entire incident in the context of Colombia's longstanding war on drugs and terrorism in general.
The fame of García Márquez—a Nobel Laureate—guaranteed that the American press would pay immediate and close attention to the work. Moreover, the drug problems of Colombia and the United States were—and remain so today—intertwined. The threat of extradition to the United States drove Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellín cartel, to order the kidnappings. However, it is to García Márquez's credit that he roots News of a Kidnapping firmly within Colombian soil, for the violence that the drug industry has wrought upon Colombian society is astronomical, indeed, hardly comprehensible to Americans. News of a Kidnapping depicts a world almost as surreal as any of García Márquez's novels, one that may shock American readers but one all too well-known to Colombians.
Section 1 Summary: The Kidnappings
News of a Kidnapping opens in Bogotá, Colombia, in November 1990 with the kidnapping of Maruja Pachón de Villamizar and her sister-in-law, Beatriz Villamizar de Guerrero. Their abduction is part of a series of high-profile abductions launched by the Pablo Escobar drug cartel, which began the past August. The drug cartel is attempting to change a new governmental policy that could lead to their extradition to the United States should they surrender to Colombian authorities. These drug traffickers are collectively known as the Extraditables.
Eight men and women, all journalists except one, have already been taken and are being held captive. Diana Turbay, accompanied by a news team, was lured into a trap on August 30 when she was offered the opportunity to meet with a guerrilla leader. Marina Montoya was kidnapped on September 18 outside of her restaurant. Four hours later, Francisco ''Pacho'' Santos was taken from his car.
Maruja and Beatriz are taken to a house in Bogotá, where they share a small room with Marina. For the most part, they are treated harshly during their captivity; for example, they are forced to speak in whispers. Pacho is held in another house in Bogotá, but he faces more amenable conditions with friendly guards and regular access to books and newspapers. Diana's group, held captive in and around Medellín, are split up; throughout their captivity, they are forced to move numerous times.
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Section 2 Summary: The Extraditables
The first eight kidnappings are not publicly acknowledged by the Extraditables until October 30. However, Pablo Escobar acknowledges his responsibility in Maruja and Beatriz's kidnapping within days. The Extraditables declare that they will release the hostages and surrender if nonextradition is guaranteed, security for themselves in prison and their families is ensured, and police abuses in Medellín cease. However, President César Gaviria and his administration already approved a decree in September for the capitulation of the traffickers, and while it said that they could have the right not to be extradited, this would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Escobar rejects the decree because it does not state that he and the other Extraditables would definitely not be extradited.
By the time of Maruja and Beatriz's kidnapping, the government and the victim's families have had numerous contacts with the Extraditables. Former President Turbay and Hernando Santos, Pacho's father, attempt to negotiate with Escobar, but President Gaviria refuses to amend the decree at all. The government maintains that its sole position with regard to the narcoterrorists is that they surrender. By November 7, when Gaviria's administration issues the official decree stating the government's capitulation policy, which did not specifically state that the Extraditables would not be extradited, no progress has been made toward releasing the hostages. After Maruja's kidnapping,...
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Section 3 Summary: Death and Release
On December 14, a capitulation decree that modifies September's decree is issued, but the two greatest obstacles to surrender are still in place: the uncertain conditions for nonextradition and a fixed time limit on pardonable crimes, meaning that crimes had to have been committed before September 5, 1990. Escobar objects to the decree, but three Medellín leaders—the Ochoa brothers—who had determined to surrender back in September to begin the process of turning themselves in.
Following this decree, several hostages—Hero Buss, Azucena Liévano, and Orlando Acevedo—are released, but in January, when two drug leaders are killed, Escobar begins to order the execution of the hostages. On January 23, a guard comes for Marina. Her body is found the next day in an empty lot. After an autopsy, her as-yet-unidentified body is buried in a mass grave. The identity of her body is not established until the following week, after the Extraditables announce her murder.
On January 25, the police raid the house in Medellín where Diana Turbay and Richard Becerra are being held on a tip that Escobar is there. Forced by the guards to flee, Diana is accidentally shot by gunfire. She is taken to a hospital where she dies from her wounds. Some Colombians believe that this action was actually a rescue raid—an action which the captors previously had promised to respond to by killing the hostages. President Gaviria orders an investigation to look into the...
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Section 4 Summary: Negotiating with Escobar and Epilogue
Negotiating with Escobar
When Maruja is not released, Villamizar decides that he must go to Medellín and meet Escobar face-to-face. His efforts to locate Escobar begin with a visit to the jail where the Ochoas are incarcerated, and they promise to give Villamizar's message to Escobar. Villamizar and Escobar correspond numerous times. Villamizar explains that, in exchange for releasing the hostages, the guarantees for his surrender were in place, his life would be protected, and he would not be extradited. Escobar, however, refuses to surrender because now he wants a guarantee that Colombia's Constituent Assembly will consider the subject of extradition. In April, negotiations improve when Father Rafael García Herreros offers himself as a mediator. Escobar agrees to meet the priest in Medellín, and the two men work out conditions for the drug leader's surrender, which focus primarily on security in his prison. Escobar orders the release of Pacho and Maruja to take place in a few days, on May 20. That morning, Father García Herreros meets with President Gaviria and gives him the details of his talk with Escobar. Maruja is released at 7 o'clock that evening, 193 days after her abduction. Pacho hears the news of her release on the radio, but minutes later, he, too, is released.
On June 19, 1991, in the presence of Villamizar, Father García Herreros and others, Escobar surrenders to the Colombian authorities. He is held...
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