Colombia Holds Out Hope More Hostages to Be Freed

By Dialogo
February 15, 2011

Colombia’s government and the Red Cross held out hope on 14 February that two hostages will be freed after Marxist FARC rebels pledged to release them but then gave false rescue coordinates.

Eduardo Pizarro, President Juan Manuel Santos’ point man in the process, said the president was not ruling out the possibility that police major Guillermo Solorzano and army corporal Salin Sanmiguel would be released.

But no operation was under way, the president’s office said in a statement. It said that the government would meet with International Red Cross staff about what happened on 13 February and make a decision on a next step.

The Colombian government said that Marxist rebels who planned to set free two hostages provided “false coordinates” about to the location of the release.

Earlier that day, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released police officer Carlos Ocampo, who was among three hostages scheduled to be freed. But the other two were kept in captivity.

The process of freeing FARC hostages requires strict security protocols, including halting military operations in the affected region for 36 hours.

Sanmiguel, kidnapped in May 2008 when he was 25, was to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Solorzano, 34, was taken in June 2007, and was expected to return to his family in Bogota.

Ocampo, kidnapped in December 2010, was handed over to ICRC staff, its spokeswoman Maria Cristina Rivera told reporters in this small town 200 kilometers west of Bogota. He had been working as a bodyguard for a mayor.

It was the latest in a series of FARC hostage releases. Between February 9 and 11 they freed councilmen Marcos Baquero and Armando Acuna, as well as marine Henry Lopez.

The FARC is holding 16 other police and soldiers they hope to swap for jailed guerrillas.

FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964, has between 7,000 and 11,000 fighters.

The rebels have long demanded a hostage-for-prisoner swap, something both Santos and his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, have refused to consider.