Download News of a Kidnapping Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

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

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

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.

Section 2 Summary: The Extraditables

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 1,475 words.)