Sunday, October 1

An 11-kilometre yellow ribbon and 600 whistles to find children lost in the Colombian jungle

The news has been getting lost in the jungle of political scandals and other events that Colombia produces every week. But in the jungles of Caquetá, especially, it is still very much alive for the 40 indigenous people who are looking for them and the 120 soldiers, including two elite groups from the Army Special Forces Command, who do not lose hope of finding the Mucutuy brothers alive. , disappeared in the region after the plane crash on April 30, in the department of Caquetá, a jungle region of the Colombian Amazon.

The strategy to find his whereabouts has become more sophisticated over the days. Currently, a bright plastic yellow ribbon stretches through the green and humid jungle, a kind ofe life line that meanders 11 kilometers through the jungle so that, if they find it, the children can follow it and reach the special commandos that are looking for them. In addition, along the way, especially in the ravines, both the indigenous groups that are looking for them, and the military, have been leaving 600 whistles that would allow them to be heard in the middle of the jungle. At night, points of light and the emission of messages already on the ground -not from a helicopter- asking them in their language to stop, stop walking so that we can locate them, are part of the strategy.

The most recent trace of its transfer was found a little more than three kilometers north of the point where the ship crashed. It is known that they are barefoot, that they made a rustic shed and that they have consumed fruits of the jungle and at least one of the food packages of the hundreds that have been thrown at them -cookies, chocolates and cassava flour are not there- and it is deduced who are still alive for a simple and compelling reason: their bodies are nowhere to be found.

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Thus, hopes remain alive despite the daily conditions, with an average of 16 hours of rain, the rigor of jungle insects and other predators, and the physical and emotional exhaustion of the search. Precisely, the army group was relieved last week to give it rest, a monthly rotation that will continue until the minors appear. And Ulises, the dog that found the initial traces, was also taken from the place because he received so many mosquito bites that he became ill. There is another tracker dog, that he got lost in the jungle days ago and there are those who say that he is with the children because their footprints have also been seen. But no one confirms that this is so; everyone knows that the jungle also produces hallucinations.

The accident

Although little is known about the children today, what is already clear is that the plane in which they were traveling with their mother, among other passengers, had engine failures and that these were reported to the control tower. According to a preliminary report from the Accident Investigation Technical Directorate (AIA), the Cessna U206G single-engine light aircraft had an engine failure, lost height, recovered and failed again, for which the pilot announces that he is going to look for a river, but in the process the plane hits tall trees and loses its power plant, so it cannot plan and make an emergency landing. Fifteen days after this tragic communication, they find the remains and the three adults who were traveling, dead. Of the children, few traces.

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But neither the army commander leading the operation, General Pedro Sánchez, nor the grandfather of the Mucutuy children, Fidencio Valencia, give up. Each one, in their anguish to find the whereabouts of Lesly (13 years old), Soleiny (9 years old), Tien (4 years old) and baby Cristin, seek all possible support. “I am asking the indigenous people of this region, especially those in the traditional part, that if they know of a spirit and know the language, help us” to return them alive, Valencia said. For his part, General Sánchez requested reinforcement from the special army commandos, specialized in actions in the jungle, the same ones that carried out Operation Jaque in 2008, which rescued Ingrid Betancourt and 14 others kidnapped by the FARC guerrillas.

Today, the search is limited to 20 square kilometers, thus closing the circle on the area in which they believe they can still be, since it is clear that they have not moved much this month. But why can’t they find them? One of the difficulties is that visibility in the jungle, given the dense vegetation and the humidity, does not exceed 20 meters, there is no possibility of looking into the distance, but practically searching step by step, like “a flea on a rug, with unexpected movements”, explained Sánchez. Even experts from the special forces think they have come across the children, but such a short field of vision and constant movement make it difficult to find.

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