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FARC Announce More Releases and Government Says It Will Not Allow “Political Shows”

By Dialogo
July 01, 2009

Bogotá, June 29 (EFE).- The FARC said today that along with Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, whose release they announced two months ago, they will liberate another soldier kidnapped in April, to which the Colombian government replied that it will not allow a “political show.” In a statement signed by the Secretary of the Military Staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the rebels insisted that these releases will only take place if opposition senator Piedad Córdoba and professor Gustavo Moncayo, the father of one of the hostages, are present for the handover. Pablo Emilio Moncayo was kidnapped more than eleven years ago, while the second member of the military whom the FARC plan to liberate is career soldier Josué Daniel Calvo Sánchez. “As is publicly known, we have decided to liberate Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo without any kind of quid pro quo, thereby expressing once again our desire to make progress toward a prisoner exchange, as we announced on April 16,” the letter says. In order to avoid what they characterized as “official provocations” and “in consideration of the good sense and seriousness they have demonstrated in matters of this kind,” the FARC requested that the group Colombians for Peace (CCP), headed by Piedad Córdoba, and Gustavo Moncayo “to be present and receive the corporal in person, as a guarantee of the success of his release.” They specified that they were not opposed to the presence at the handover of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and of the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the only groups the Colombian government would allow to be part of the humanitarian mission, but the FARC consider them “insufficient.” And the fact is that President Álvaro Uribe made clear months ago that neither the senator nor the father of the kidnapped corporal would be part of the team responsible for receiving the hostages. The Justice and Interior Minister, Fabio Valencia, responded to the FARC’s statement today that he will not permit the release of kidnapping victims to become a “political show.” “We cannot stage political shows, nor have political interests, either with people’s lives or with their freedom,” specified Valencia, who is serving as acting president while President Uribe is in Washington. The minister recalled that the government has stated repeatedly that “all kidnapping victims who are in the power of the FARC must be liberated unilaterally.” Professor Moncayo, the father of the kidnapped corporal, requested Uribe once again today to do everything possible to facilitate the release of both soldiers. He indicated that the government is setting up “impediments for the successful conclusion of this humanitarian act,” while dismissing the possibility that it is turning into “a matter of petty politics” on its side. Meanwhile, the secretary of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Fabián Marulanda, said that the FARC’s announcement is “a beacon of hope” and asked the Colombian government to “make things easier in order to enable the release of those kidnapped.” Career soldier Josué Daniel Calvo Sánchez has been held by the FARC since April 20, when a confrontation took place between rebels and Colombian army troops in the hamlet of El Encanto, in the department of Meta. Pablo Emilio Moncayo was kidnapped on 21 December 1997, when he was eighteen years old and was fulfilling his military service obligation as a corporal first-class at an army communications base in the Pastascoy hills, in the southern department of Nariño. Currently, the FARC are holding 22 police and military personnel considered “exchangeable,” and they seek to exchange them for more than five hundred captured guerrillas, some of whom have even been extradited to the United States.