Colombia’s FARC rebels will allegedly free all ten kidnapped military and police officers according to a communiqué issued on Sunday morning.
The guerillas declared “our decision to add the remaining four to the announced decision to release six prisoners of war” in a message first published via the Anncol news organization’s website. Furthermore, the FARC claimed that "from today on we ban the practice" of kidnapping, which is a tool that they have used for decades as part of their armed conflict against the Colombian state.
The declaration did not mention if the rebels would free any of their civilian hostages and also stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. The FARC’s statement detailed that they will “resort to other forms of funding and political pressure” and alleged that the increased militarization by the government would lead to “an indefinite prolongation of the war.”
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos reacted cautiously to the announcement by the guerillas. In a pair of Twitter messages, Santos said that he was “very happy” over the freeing of the ten men but warned that renouncing future kidnappings was an “insufficient” move.
Today’s news comes three months after the FARC said that they would free six policemen and troops. That process was delayed, however, after the rebels accused the government of not suspending military operations in the area where the hostage release was due to take place. (In response, the Santos regime blamed the FARC of lying by not providing the geographic coordinates for a potential liberation).
Marleny Orjuela, the head of the Colombians for Peace activist group, was named by the FARC as one of the liaisons for the planned freeing of the hostages. She urged the Colombian government, the International Red Cross and delegates from the Brazilian government to “meet as soon as possible” in order to work out the details of the liberation that could take place as soon as next month.
The possible liberation of the uniformed personnel was met with joy and excitement by some of their family members. “This is news that we’ve been waiting for a long time,” said Griselda Medina whose son, Wilson Rojas, has been held against the will by the FARC since 1999.
Several days ago a radio station held a marathon broadcast from Bogota’s central Bolivar Plaza urging an end to kidnappings by the FARC and other guerilla groups. Relatives of kidnapping victims and others affected by the Colombian armed conflict participated in the event including Natalia Andrea Duarte. She arrived in the main square after marching forty miles in solidarity for her father, a policeman kidnapped by the FARC nearly thirteen years ago. The seventeen-year-old called on ordinary Colombians to combat violence and had some harsh words for her dad’s captors:
“I’m very sad and disappointed by Colombia,” she said and also noted that when she reached the Bogotá suburb of Soacha “the people started to reject the calls for peace that we have been seeking”…Image Source – Flickr via equinoXio20080720 (“Freedom for Our Kidnapped Policemen” says the banner used at a 2008 anti-violence protest in Bogota.) (CC BY 2.0)
“It has been twelve years and seven months where I’ve been unable to know my father’s image or receive his scolding, hugs and kisses. So what is this? I demand that they return what the took from me.”
Online Sources – El Tiempo, Colombia Reports, Anncol, lainformacion.com, BBC Mundo, RCN Radio, Caracol Radio