01/31/13 – In the early hours of Friday, January 25, 18 musicians and staff of the vallenato band Kombo Kolombia were kidnapped by an unknown group of armed assailants in the municipality of Hidalgo, located in the border state of Nuevo León. State authorities began a search for the band members after several of the victims’ families reported their disappearance. As of January 30, government officials confirmed that they found the bodies of 17 of the kidnapped individuals in a nearby well in the neighboring municipality of Mina. An unidentified member of the group was able to escape his captors and report what had happened to government officials.
Using testimony from the escapee and witnesses in Hidalgo, authorities were able to piece together the events that led to the kidnapping of the band members of Kombo Kolombia. The band was hired to perform in a private party in the bar La Carettera in Hidalgo on the night of January 24, where they played until they were interrupted with the arrival of an unverified number of armed men. Details differ, but media outlets agree that the armed men broke up the party and forced the band members into trucks that sped away from the scene. The survivor’s testimony described that after a few hours of being driven around the area, the band members were beaten by their abductors and were interrogated about possible drug consumption and affiliations with undisclosed drug cartels. Afterwards they were driven to the ranch of Las Estacas, located in Minas, where they were reportedly forced to their knees and executed by coup de grace, their bodies being dumped into a well by the gunmen. The survivor was able to escape his captors in the confusing moments when the gunmen were executing his fellow band members.
Kombo Kolombia had neither known ties with any criminal organization nor to the popular genre of narcocorridos—a genre that focuses on the exploits of drug smugglers—but rather were known for performing Colombian romantic ballads, a genre better known as vallenato. Nevertheless, a family member of one of the musicians reported that some band members had been previously threatened by an unknown group. Thus far, government officials have not disclosed the motivation or the perpetrators of the kidnappings and killings, and media outlets have offered different takes on whether band members were killed by the Sinaloa Cartel, as the Mexico City-based newspaper La Jornada posited, or by a rival cartel of Los Zetas–a criminal organization who allegedly owns regional establishments that Kombo Kolombia played at in the past.
Such an attack on musicians is not unheard of as cartels have, in the past, gunned down musicians who were perceived as being members of or on friendly terms with rival cartels, such as Valentín Elizalde killed in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, in 2006; Sergio Gómez—lead singer of K-Paz de la Sierra—killed in Michoacán in 2007; and Zayda Peña—who survived an attack in her hotel and was later executed at the hospital she was recovering at—in Tamaulipas also in 2007.