Christian Escobar Mora/AP
Colombian opposition Senator Piedad
Cordoba will receive the released

FARC to Release Prisoners, While Kidnapping Others

December 22, 2008 02:22 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
FARC announced that it will release six hostages at an undisclosed time in the next few days, while police also blame the rebel group for more recent kidnappings.

FARC Plans to Release Prisoners

On Sunday, Dec. 21, the Colombian rebel group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) released a statement, claiming that it will free six hostages in the next few days, according to the BBC.

But Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a member of the country’s opposition party with close relations to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, did not say exactly when the hostages would be released, CNN reports. The prisoners are supposed to be handed over to Cordoba in the exchange.

FARC says that hostages to be released include Gov. Alan Jara, who was captured in 2001, and former legislator Sigifredo Lopez Tobon, who was seized in 2002. Colombian police and soldiers make up the other four captives.

But while the news of the impending releases was being celebrated, police said on Sunday night that FARC has kidnapped 10 other people in the Colombian department of Meta.

The Colombian government says that FARC is responsible for 700 of the 3,000 people kidnapped in Colombia. The government has recently increased its efforts against the rebel group, “offering rewards to the guerrillas if they surrender themselves and free their hostages,” CNN reports.

Background: FARC’s seeming decline

On Oct. 26, former Colombian lawmaker Oscar Tulio Lizcano became the 22nd Colombian hostage to escape this year from FARC. He was held hostage by the rebel group for more than eight years.

The Associated Press reported that the recently freed Lizcano emerged from the jungle looking like “a crazy man—bearded, grimy, slumped on another man’s shoulder and screaming across a jungle river.”

FARC has been fighting the Colombian government for the past 44 years, but recently has shown signs of weakening. In March, the group’s founder died, and two months later FARC leader Nelly Avila Moreno turned herself in to Colombian authorities. In July, 15 FARC captives were rescued, including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

But the Colombian government is also dealing with growing protests from its indigenous people, known as Indians, over land rights and access to government services.

In May, the Colombian government announced and FARC confirmed that the founder of the group, Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, had died in March. It had just been announced days before that the beleaguered organization’s leader, Nelly Avila Moreno, had turned herself in, in what looked to be a turning point in the government's efforts to stamp out the leftist organization.

In July, the rescue of 15 hostages from FARC, including Betancourt, was seen as evidence of a weakening in the rebel group's strength. Observers also saw it as an indication of Uribe's increasing control over Colombia.

In January, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged other nations, including the U.S., Colombia and some in Europe, to stop calling FARC a terrorist organization. The idea was widely rejected.

Reference: FARC


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