Mediators and Government Urge the FARC to Accelerate Promised Releases

By Dialogo
September 25, 2009

Bogotá, 24 September (EFE).- Sen. Piedad Córdoba, the Catholic Church, and the Colombian government today urged the FARC to accelerate the announced handover of two hostages, after evidence was released that one of them, kidnapped almost twelve years ago, was alive. “I believe that in a month we will have gotten past this subject,” Córdoba told reporters in the city of Medellín (northeast), referring to the period within which the two hostages, whom the guerrillas have promised to hand over together with the corpse of a policeman who died in captivity, may be freed. The government “has left the door open (...) we are awaiting information” from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) about the promised releases, the High Commissioner for Peace, Frank Pearl, commented to several broadcasters for his part. According to the general secretary of the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Juan Vicente Córdoba, “the only thing left” now is for the FARC “to say quickly, once and for all,” where and when the releases are going to take place, because the Catholic Church, the Red Cross, and the senator are already “ready.” The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) several months ago expressed their readiness to free unilaterally Army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, kidnapped almost twelve years ago, and soldier Josué Daniel Calvo, as well as to hand over the corpse of policeman Julián Guevara, who died while being held captive. The insurgents demanded that the handovers be made to opposition senator Córdoba, something that Colombian president Álvaro Uribe authorized on 8 July. Nevertheless, the president imposed as a condition the simultaneous release of all police and military personnel whom the FARC want to exchange for rebels taken prisoner (the guerrillas say there are twenty-three, but the government says twenty-four), as well as the handover of the remains of three men who died in captivity. In light of the lack of movement in the process and the pleas of the hostages’ families, on Saturday Uribe decided to withdraw this condition and reaffirmed the authorization granted to Córdoba to participate in the releases together with the Catholic Church and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The guerrilla group’s first gesture toward getting the process moving was the handover to Córdoba of a video released last night in Bogotá and showing Corporal Moncayo as evidence that he is still alive. “Mr. President, open the door, because I want to be free,” Moncayo appeals in the video, addressing President Uribe. Moncayo was kidnapped on 21 December 1997 in the seizure of Cerro Patascoy (Nariño, on the border with Ecuador) and is one of the two military personnel held captive the longest. “It isn’t just to continue denying us the right to be free,” Moncayo protests, expressing his confidence, in addition, that “obstacles won’t keep getting thrown up” to his release and that of the other hostages. In his statement on Saturday, Uribe asked the FARC for evidence that the hostages are alive, “and a piece of evidence related to the unilateral decision” to free Moncayo and Calvo “has just arrived,” Córdoba emphasized today. What is important now “is to move forward on the logistics” of the releases and “put an end to this drop-by-drop process that drives the families to despair,” the legislator noted. She also let several broadcasters know that the group Colombian Men and Women for Peace (CCP), which she heads, is preparing a letter to the FARC in order to firm up the details of the announced releases and make progress toward a possible humanitarian exchange of hostages for rebels taken prisoner. Meanwhile, Corporal Moncayo’s mother, María Stella Cabrera, today called on her son and the other victims of kidnapping “not to let themselves die” in the jungle. In recent weeks evidence has been released that twenty-one other kidnapped police and military personnel are alive, and some of them, captive for more than a decade, appear with heavy chains around their necks and visibly emaciated.