The Colombian Government Sets Out Contacts for the Release of FARC Hostages

By Dialogo
July 13, 2009

The Colombian government’s peace commissioner, Frank Pearl, set out contacts with members of the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross in order to determine their interest in participating in the humanitarian mission that is supposed to receive the hostages in the FARC’s power. “Yesterday I talked to the Red Cross, today I talked to the Catholic Church, and they are totally willing to cooperate in this process, and we expect it to move forward,” the official told the press. The peace commissioner also confirmed that the authorization given by President Álvaro Uribe to opposition legislator Piedad Córdoba applies only to her presence at the handover of the hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “The president has authorized Sen. Piedad Córdoba to participate in the event at which those kidnapped are handed over,” he clarified. Likewise, he emphasized that the FARC must hand over the twenty-four police and military personnel who have been kidnapped, in addition to three hostages who died in captivity. Uribe authorized Córdoba on Wednesday to participate in the release of the FARC’s hostages, but on condition that the twenty-four kidnapped police and military personnel and three corpses in the power of the guerrillas would be “simultaneously” handed over. The president indicated that Córdoba will be able to participate in the humanitarian mission charged in charge of with receiving the captives, together with the International Red Cross and the Catholic Church, after he had withdrawn her authorization to participate back in April. In response, Córdoba thanked Uribe for his gesture, which she characterized as “positive,” and asked him for a meeting to “tackle the fundamental parameters for the release” of those kidnapped by the FARC. A report published today by the daily El Tiempo indicates that the government is prepared to accept a phased handover of the twenty-four police and military personnel by the FARC, rather than the “simultaneous” handover called for by President Uribe. According to official sources cited by the newspaper, Uribe wants the rebels to commit to liberating these twenty-four police and military personnel, independent of whether or not this implies authorizing more than one handover operation. The FARC announced in the middle of April that they would release Army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, kidnapped at the end of 1998, and in June they indicated that along with Moncayo, they would hand over another member of the military who was wounded in combat. The condition demanded by the guerrillas was that Córdoba should be present for the handover of the hostages, something that Uribe opposed until Wednesday.