Release of Five FARC Hostages Enters Final Stage

Release of Five FARC Hostages Enters Final Stage

By Dialogo
January 13, 2011

The process leading to the unilateral release of five hostages kidnapped by the FARC has entered its final stage with the design of security protocols involving Colombia, Brazil, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in order to receive the hostages probably in the next two weeks.

We are in “the antechamber waiting to be able to begin operations” for the reception – probably in the middle of the country’s jungles – of two civilians and three uniformed personnel held as hostages by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla group, Eduardo Pizarro, the government’s delegate for this process, said on 11 January.

“The ball is in the FARC’s court, because everything necessary for the releases is ready. We’re simply waiting for the coordinates of the places where the releases are going to take place,” he added in remarks to Bogotá radio station Caracol.

Pizarro emphasized that the security protocols are fundamental to guaranteeing a successful outcome for the releases.

“Progress is being made on signing an agreement with the International Red Cross and the Brazilian government, so that the insignia of the International Red Cross is placed on the Brazilian helicopters at the Colombian border, and so that these helicopters are coordinated by the ICRC and the Brazilian pilots,” Pizarro explained.

This will be the third time that Brazil participates in an operation of this kind; on two previous occasions, it did so by providing helicopters and crews.

In order to guarantee the five liberations, it will be necessary that the Colombian Armed Forces and the FARC “pause their military operations for thirty-six hours in the areas where the liberations will take place,” Christophe Beney, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, told reporters.

“The ICRC would never carry out a detainee-release operation without a complete suspension of all military activities, because this could endanger the lives of the individuals released, of our delegates, and of the people in the location,” he emphasized.

On 11 January, Beney met with Pizarro, the delegate of the Brazilian embassy, and former Liberal senator Piedad Córdoba, designated by the FARC to receive the kidnapping victims.

Beney specified that the operation would begin “a week or ten days” after the FARC give Córdoba the coordinates where they will turn over the hostages.

On 13 January, there will be another meeting at the Defense Ministry to study the security measures, a spokesperson told AFP.

Pizarro nonetheless warned that “acts that disturb public order do not make things easier,” in a tacit allusion to the violent actions that the FARC have committed so far this year.

In any event, he considered the release of the five hostages, announced by the FARC on 8 December, to be an “irreversible fact.”

The FARC, Colombia’s chief guerrilla group, announced on that date that they would unilaterally release Police Maj. Guillermo Solórzano, Army Cpl. Salín Sanmiguel, Marine Henry López Martínez, and town councillors Marcos Vaquero and Armando Acuña, kidnapped between 2007 and 2010.

The uniformed personnel are part of a group of nineteen police and military personnel in the FARC’s power, some for as long as thirteen years, while the two politicians are the only civilians whom the FARC admits to holding among the kidnapping victims it uses for extortion.