FARC Turns Over to Red Cross Pilots Kidnapped in Colombia

By Dialogo
July 31, 2012

On July 29, the FARC Colombian guerrilla group turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) two pilots of a civilian helicopter whom they had kidnapped on July 10, the humanitarian organization announced.

The ICRC brought them by road to the city of Popayán (the capital of the department of Cauca, 650 km southwest of Bogotá), “where they have now been reunited with their families,” the organization’s spokesperson in Bogotá told AFP.

In a press release, the ICRC specified that the release took place “in a rural area of the municipality of Argelia (Cauca)” and identified the pilots as Juan Carlos Álvarez and Alejandro de Jesús Ocampo.

Speaking to the television news program Caracol, Álvarez said, “God grant that this be an opening for this to not happen again to any other Colombian. Hopefully, we can live in a Colombia at peace,” he added.

For his part, Ocampo said that the most difficult part of captivity was “being far away from family and not knowing what’s going to happen with your life.”

The head of the ICRC specified that the organization’s action came about via a “direct request from the armed group,” and he reiterated that the organization is “ready to continue providing our good offices for this and other kinds of humanitarian action in which our role as a neutral intermediary is sought.”

The FARC had captured the two pilots when the helicopter they were flying had to make an emergency landing on the soccer field of the small town of El Plateado, in the municipality of Argelia.

Following the landing of the helicopter and after the two pilots were seized by the guerrilla group, a motorcycle bomb exploded at the location, causing the death of a seven-year-old boy and injuring four.

The FARC asserted in that statement that the helicopter “had been engaged in intensive overflight of the mountainous area between the municipalities of Argelia, Guapi, and Timbiquí (Cauca) for nearly two months.”

They also warned that any public or private firm that aims to conduct overflights, study, or execute construction projects in regions with a rebel presence should “have the approval of the community inhabiting the location” and “inform the revolutionary insurgency of their activities,” because “only in that way will their safety be guaranteed.”