Colombian authorities believe that the four indigenous children missing for almost a month in the Amazon “are alive” and insist on searching for them, said Monday the military officer in charge of the operation.
The children, aged 13, 9 and 4, plus an 11-month-old baby, were traveling with their mother and two other adults in a small plane that crashed on May 1 in the dense jungle in the southeast of the country. Unlike the adults, their bodies were not in the aircraft or in the surrounding area.
With sniffer dogs, nearly 200 military and indigenous men have found their belongings, a makeshift shelter and a nibbled fruit in the area.
“We concluded that the children are alive from the evidence. If they were dead, it would surely be easy to find them because they would be still, because the animals would guide us there,” General Pedro Sanchez told W Radio, after a meeting with officials of the Civil Aeronautics and the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, in charge of looking after the rights of minors.
Authorities are tracking the children along the banks of the mighty Apaporis River in an area of some 323 square kilometers, the equivalent of the entire province of Buenos Aires.
“It’s still very strange because they don’t stop despite the fact that we have inserted more than 10,000 flyers” and 100 survival kits, added the general in charge of the crews scouring this border region between the departments of Caqueta and Guaviare (south).
At 100 meters –
On Wednesday 24th the troops found two diapers and a pair of slippers in the area: “We have found evidence and we have corroborated with GPS: when we found the two diapers, one used, we passed about 100 meters from them,” said Sanchez.
“At one time we had 92 indigenous people working with our commandos, there are 73 left because of the same conditions of the terrain, but that combination has allowed us to double the eyes in the area, also to exchange knowledge about the complex and mysterious, some call it, of our jungle,” added the military.
On Sunday the army took powerful searchlights with a range of up to three kilometers to the area.
“We want to give them a zone of approach so that the minors can get closer to us,” Colonel Fausto Avellaneda explained to the Noticias Caracol news program.
The military also played a message recorded by the children’s grandmother in her mother tongue and in Spanish: “Daughter, I thank you for standing still, listen to the microphone. Daughter, please stand there. So that they (the soldiers) can find you.”
Talking to the jungle
Meanwhile, the native communities “are carrying out spiritual processes that consist of talking to the jungle and asking it to speak” to locate the children, according to the government.
Faithful to the beliefs of the Amazonian peoples, Fidencio Valencia, the children’s grandfather, said that some supernatural and “mysterious” force has prevented the rescue.
The area is inhabited by jaguars, pumas, snakes and other predators. There is also the presence of guerrillas who walked away from the peace pact signed by the FARC in 2016.
However, General Sanchez assured that the brothers “very surely are not with an armed group”.
President Gustavo Petro reported that the children had been found alive on May 17, but the following day he retracted and regretted the false information.
According to family members, the eldest of the brothers of the Huitoto people has great ability to move through the jungle.