FARC guerrillas seek to influence the 2010 presidential election by releasing hostages “a few at a time,” Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos warned today.
“Releasing hostages at a slow rate as political actions, they want to put themselves in a position” to be “able to affect the upcoming elections (...) as they have done in past elections,” Santos told Army officers and NCOs in a conference.
Santos stressed that, as in other occasions, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reasoned as follows: “I decide whom I make peace with, the people vote for that person, and we return to the same pattern of deceit. As President Álvaro Uribe says, ‘you can’t neuter a dog twice.’”
The Minister made these statements days after the FARC handed over six hostages to a humanitarian mission: Alan Jará, the former Governor of Meta; Sigifredo López, the former Deputy of the Department Assembly of Valle del Cauca; three police officers; and one soldier.
The hostages were handed over to the opposition Senator Piedad Córdoba as a gesture toward the group of politicians, academics, artists, and intellectuals collectively known as Colombians for the Peace (CCP).
Santos also reported today that a regular FARC tactic has been to perpetrate terrorist acts in order to create a sense of insecurity among the population.
“With one hand they free hostages, with another they throw bombs; they want to tell the population that the FARC is alive (…) to create in the Colombian mind a need to negotiate for peace,” said the minister.
The FARC issued two press releases yesterday in which America’s oldest guerrilla organization announced that it will only free the 22 police officers and soldiers kept under their control if 500 of their rebels are released.
The Colombian government responded today by demanding that the FARC completely cease all terrorist acts as a first step toward launching a peace process that will later include handing over weapons and an eventual dialogue, as happened in Northern Ireland.