Former Colombian Rebel Seeks French Asylum

By Dialogo
December 15, 2008

VOA News A former member of Colombia's FARC rebel group is the first person to take advantage of a special French asylum offer. The rebel arrived in Paris with former French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt. Former Colombian FARC guerilla Wilson Bueno arrived in Paris with his girlfriend - accompanied by famous former-hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who was released earlier this year after being held by FARC guerrillas for six years. The French government is offering no details about where Bueno will be staying, out of concern for his privacy. Bueno, who is better known by his code name Isaza, became a hero in Colombia after he deserted from FARC in late October, taking a 62-year-old hostage with him. France offered political asylum last year to Colombian rebels who desert with their hostages, and Bueno is the first to benefit from that offer. He also received a $400,000 reward from the Colombian government for risking his life to escape with the hostage. But the International Federation of Human Rights, for one, is concerned about France's asylum offer. Luis Guillermo Perez is secretary general of the monitoring group and a native of Colombia. He says his organization's position on asylum is that it should be given to victims first. In the case of Bueno, he says that under Colombian law, the government cannot pardon crimes that include kidnapping. FARC rebels are thought to be holding more than 700 hostages, including 28 they consider political prisoners whom they want to exchange for FARC members jailed in Colombia and the United States.