The FARC announced that it will unilaterally release Pablo Emilio Moncayo, one of the two Colombian soldiers that have remained longest in the hands of the guerrillas - almost twelve years.
The rebels said that they will release him to Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz (CCP, In English “Colombian Men and Women for Peace”), a group of intellectuals led by opposition congressman Piedad Córdoba.
In a statement released on the legislator’s website, the Secretariat (central command) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) explained the decision due to "repeated demand" for the hostages made by the Presidents of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and the CCP.
"We announce our decision to unilaterally release Pablo Emilio Moncayo and personally deliver him to a committee headed by Senator Córdoba and Professor Moncayo (Gustavo, father of the soldier) once mechanisms to ensure the safety of operation are in place," explained the rebels.
Moncayo was kidnapped on December 21, 1997, with corporate soldier Jose Martinez in a bloody guerilla assault on the hill of Patascoy, an army communications base in the southern department of Nariño, which borders Ecuador.
In the attack 10 soldiers were killed, 4 were wounded, and 18 others ended up in the hands of the the FARC, which later released 16 and kept the two officers, both of whom were added to a group of hostages for the purpose of bargaining for 500 imprisoned rebels. This group now comprises 22 police and soldiers.
In the message, which was also released on Café Stereo-Radio Bolivariana, close to the FARC, the rebel command referred to the recent call of President Álvaro Uribe, urging the rebels to declare a unilateral ceasefire.
The Secretariat tacitly rejected the view, believing that the security forces and paramilitary groups "are continuing their offensive” throughout the country.
What is required, he stated, is “to start looking for a serious process to find paths to agreement, reconciliation, coexistence, and democracy."
Regarding this, the Secretariat said: "It means we must all contribute, primarily the State as fundamentally responsible for the conflict, and that bilateralism is essential as a golden rule and foundation of trust on which to build a solid foundation for advancement."
"Therefore, we have suggested setting a humanitarian agreement to generate tangible facts on both sides, to achieve the subsequent steps towards overcoming the final confrontation," said the rebel leadership, headed by alias "Alfonso Cano,” who has been the high chief of FARC for a year.
Moncayo is among the group of hostages of which the French-Colombian Íngrid Betancourt was a member; the three Americans and eleven soldiers and policemen who were rescued last July from the jungles of Guaviare (eastern) in a covert military operation called "Operation Checkmate."