Colombian Government Gives Green Light For Rebel Hostage Release

By Dialogo
November 25, 2009

The Colombian government has authorized the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Catholic Church to make "the necessary contacts" with leftist rebels for the release of two soldiers the guerrillas said they are prepared to free unilaterally. That news coincided with rumors that one of the prisoners due to be released, army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, had managed to escape from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. "The government will provide the necessary guarantees and reiterates its readiness and willingness for this process to be completed as soon as possible," President Alvaro Uribe's administration said in a statement announcing the authorizations. FARC commanders said months ago that they were willing to unilaterally free Moncayo and Pvt. Josue Daniel Calvo and deliver the body of police Maj. Julian Ernesto Guevara, who died while in captivity. Until last week, Uribe had been insisting that the rebels hand over all 25 of the soldiers and police they are holding, but the FARC wants to trade 23 of those captives for some 500 jailed guerrillas, a few of whom have been extradited to the United States. The Colombian government has agreed to the FARC's request that opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba - instrumental in earlier prisoner releases - join Red Cross and church representatives on the mission to receive the soldiers. Cpl. Moncayo was captured on Dec. 21, 1997, in a rebel attack on the southern town of Cerro Patascoy and is one of the two soldiers who have spent the most time in captivity. His father, teacher Gustavo Moncayo, said Tuesday that a person he declined to identify had told him authorities had indications his son escaped from the insurgents. "Last night I received a call that a guerrilla communication was possibly intercepted in which they say Pablo Emilio escaped," the elder Moncayo told Caracol Radio. Gustavo Moncayo has become known as the "peace walker" for trekking long distances on foot while wearing chains around his neck to call attention to the plight of his son and the other hostages. Uribe and the FARC accuse each other of having no real interest in negotiations and the president has instead favored rescue operations to free the hostages. One such mission last year, in which Colombian troops disguised as Red Cross workers freed former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. military contractors and 11 others, was a resounding success. Yet hostage families say the risks are too great, pointing to the deaths of 11 lawmakers during a clash several years ago between the rebels and army soldiers.
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