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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Father of Rescued Colombian Children Faces Abuse Charges

The father of two Indigenous children who remarkably survived 40 days alone in the Amazon rainforest was charged Saturday with sexually abusing their older sister.

Manuel Ranoque was arrested for allegedly abusing his 13-year-old stepdaughter Lesly since she was 10. Lesly and her three younger siblings – Soleiny, 9, Tien Noriel, 5, and Cristin, 1 – survived a plane crash in May that killed their mother and two others on board.

The four children, members of the Huitoto tribe, subsisted for over five weeks in the jungle by eating packaged cassava flour from the wreckage and foraging wild fruits. Lesly, the eldest, was credited with keeping her young siblings alive by using her extensive knowledge of the dangerous jungle environment.

After an extensive search operation, the lost children were discovered just 3 miles from the crash site. Ranoque participated in the search as the biological father of the two younger children.

Following their miraculous rescue, a custody dispute emerged between Ranoque and the children’s maternal grandparents. The minors spent a month recovering in the hospital before being placed in the care of a child welfare agency.

It was during this custody process that officials first detected signs of sexual abuse against Lesly and informed prosecutors. Ranoque denies the charges but will remain in custody pending trial.

The Indigenous community governor had hinted at abuse allegations against Ranoque in June, shortly after the children’s rescue drew global attention. Prosecutors have now brought formal charges based on evidence and the child’s testimony.

The remarkable survival story captivated Colombia while the custody proceedings continued in the aftermath. But the latest sexual abuse charges against the children’s own father have added a tragic dimension to the jungle saga.

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