Ecuador's government has denied it is negotiating with kidnappers who abducted three journalists more than two weeks ago, but insists that ministers are analyzing "every possibility" to secure their release, according to Interior Minister Cesar Navas.
Journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and driver Efrain Segarra were kidnapped in Ecuador's northern border in Esmeraldas on March 26 while reporting on a series of violent attacks against Ecuadorean security forces.
During Monday's meeting, attended by the minister of defense and the foreign affairs minister, Navas told reporters: "I cannot say that we are in a process of negotiations. It is clear, we are analyzing, four scenarios have opened."
Citing security concerns, Navas stopped short of detailing those scenarios, but confirmed that armed incursion is not one of them.
Navas' new declarations contradict previous statements made last month when he said the government was "in a process of negotiation, demands and more" to secure the safe return of the hostages.
Police Commander Ramiro Mantilla stressed the priority is to safeguard the lives of those kidnapped and he said displays of force would be avoided to prevent escalation.
At the same time, Navas recognized there is "dialogue" and "technical police operation." On April 5, President Lenin Moreno said the government was in talks with "intermediaries" to determine the state of the hostages.
During the meeting, Ecuadorean authorities also said that 'El Guacho' – who is allegedly responsible for the kidnapping – is Colombian rather than Ecuadorean.
Earlier this month, Colombia's RCN news channel aired a video in which the kidnapped El Comercio staff say their kidnappers are demanding the "exchange of the three prisoners detained in Ecuador and the suspension of the agreement between Ecuador and Colombia to fight terrorism.".
The Ecuadorean government rejected the video, calling it an attempt by the kidnappers to pressure the state.