BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, OCT. 30 -- The Medellin cocaine cartel today admitted holding seven kidnapped journalists and said it would execute them if authorities harmed any of the traffickers' family members.
In a communique, "the Extraditables," as cartel leaders call themselves, said they were holding the journalists, six of whom have been held since Aug. 30, "as a response to all the violations of our rights."
While officials and family members of those abducted had said the Extraditables were responsible for the kidnappings, the group had not publicly acknowledged or explained the abductions before today.
The government had no immediate comment but has said previously that it will not negotiate for the release of the journalists.
The statement, bearing the slogan "We prefer a tomb in Colombia to a prison cell in the United States," said there was a plan by the police to "kidnap one of our family members with the objective of exchanging him for the those detained."
"If something of this nature occurs, our response will be immediate and we will execute the journalists detained," the statement said. "We will also attack the family members of the political leaders who sponsor and support the criminal and genocidal police."
The statement accused the police of torturing and murdering Luis Hernando Gaviria, a cousin of Pablo Escobar, leader of the Extraditables. Police say Gaviria, who was killed Oct. 23, was a close collaborator of Escobar and died in a shootout.
Six journalists -- including Diana Turbay, the daughter of former president Julio Cesar Turbay, and Hero Buss, a German freelance reporter -- were abducted Aug. 30 after they left the capital together, reportedly to interview Marxist guerrillas.
The seventh journalist, Francisco Santos, news editor at El Tiempo, the nation's largest newspaper, was violently abducted Sept. 19.
That same day, Marina Montoya, sister of German Montoya, Colombia's ambassador to Canada, was kidnapped.
The Turbays, Santos and Montoyas are all prominent and influential families in the governing Liberal Party, and those close to the traffickers have said they were targeted because of the close ties of their families to the nation's political elite.
The Extraditables' threat came as pressure was growing for the government to negotiate an end to the crisis.
A group called "the Notables," including ex-presidents Alfonso Lopez Michelson and Misael Pastrana, offered on Oct. 5 to mediate with the kidnappers.
On Friday, Guido Parra, a lawyer who has represented the Extraditables in the past, wrote an open letter to the Notables asking them to press the government to implement two commissions -- one national and the other with the participation of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs -- to study the problem of drug trafficking.
Parra did not acknowledge acting on behalf of the Extraditables, but his letter was widely interpreted as a restatement of the traffickers' demand that their crimes be treated as political, not terrorist, acts -- a distinction that would allow them to negotiate with the government and receive pardons.
Today, the Notables promised to do "everything possible" to get the government to accept the proposal. But a senior official said the government would not adopt Parra's proposal.