Colombian President Paves Way For Hostage Releases

By Dialogo
September 21, 2009

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe paved the way for the unilateral release of several hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group, authorizing opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba to participate in the handover and dropping its condition that all the captives be released at once. "The unilateral release of captives offered by the FARC is being mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic Church," said a brief communique read to reporters by peace commissioner Frank Pearl at the Nariño presidential palace. Uribe, Pearl, Defense Minister Gabriel Silva and National Police director Gen. Oscar Naranjo met Saturday morning in the Bogota military airport with family members of various hostages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group. According to the communique read by Pearl, during that meeting "the families asked the president to facilitate the release of captives offered by the FARC, without imposing the condition that all kidnap victims be freed simultaneously." The FARC expressed months ago its willingness to unilaterally free army Corp. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, kidnapped almost 12 years ago, and another soldier, Josue Daniel Calvo, as well has handing over the body of policeman Julian Guevara, who died in captivity. The rebel group demanded that the captives be released to opposition Sen. Cordoba, something Uribe authorized on July 8. But at the time the president put as a condition the simultaneous liberation of all police and soldiers that the FARC want to exchange for imprisoned rebels (the guerrillas speak of 23, the government of 24), as well as the handing over of the remains of three men who died in captivity. On Saturday, however, the government withdrew that condition, and repeated its authorization for Sen. Piedad Cordoba to take part in the liberaton" of Moncayo and Calvo, and the handover of Guevara's body.
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