Colombian Bishops Reaffirm Willingness to Mediate Hostage Releases

By Dialogo
July 10, 2009

Bogotá, July 9 (EFE).- Today Colombia’s Catholic bishops reaffirmed their willingness “to serve as mediators” in the release of hostages held by the FARC, after President Álvaro Uribe authorized opposition legislator Piedad Córdoba to participate in the process. “If there is something that needs to be done for the release of hostages, we are always here to serve,” the new general secretary of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Juan Vicente Córdoba, an Ecuadorian currently serving as auxiliary bishop of Bucaramanga, said in an interview with Caracol Radio. Uribe yesterday authorized Córdoba to try once again to mediate the release of the FARC’s hostages, but on the condition that the twenty-four kidnapped police and military personnel and three corpses in the power of the guerrillas be handed over “simultaneously.” Before leaving on a trip to the United States, Uribe indicated that Córdoba could participate in the humanitarian mission charged with receiving the captives, together with the International Red Cross and the Catholic Church, after he withdrew her authorization to participate in April. In response, Córdoba thanked Uribe for his gesture, which she characterized as “positive,” and asked him for a meeting to “tackle the fundamental parameters for the release” of those kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In mid April the FARC announced that they would release Army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, kidnapped at the end of 1998, and in June they indicated that along with Moncayo, they would hand over another member of the military who was wounded in combat. The condition demanded by the guerrillas was the presence of Córdoba for the handover of the hostages, something that Uribe opposed until yesterday. “The president has taken a step; we congratulate him. We hope that the guerrillas consent to the releases,” Monsignor Córdoba commented today, adding that, in his judgment, “it’s going to be a bit complicated” to have a “simultaneous” handover of hostages, as Uribe has called for. Meanwhile, Ingrid Betancourt, rescued a year ago in Jaque Operation, said in a statement published today by several Colombian media outlets that she is “pleased” by Uribe’s decision, since Córdoba’s participation in the releases “is very important, and her presence is a guarantee for assuring the lives of those kidnapped.” “I believe that (Uribe) is right to call for all of them to be released. This is something that honors him and reassures us,” the former Colombian presidential candidate, who was a hostage of the FARC for more than six years, expressed. “If I understood correctly, in calling for the releases to be simultaneous, it is not excluded the possibility that there could be several releases in different places, a possibility which might be of interest to the guerrillas,” she added.