Uribe uses this as an excuse to call for a military rather than negotiated solution to the hostage crisis. But the families and supporters of some of the FARC’s hostages aren’t buying it. From Merco Press, Oct. 21:
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe withdrew on Friday his offer to negotiate a humanitarian prisoner exchange with Marxist oriented rebels after blaming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for a car bomb that wounded 23 people
In a speech at the military university in Bogotá where the blast took place, Uribe said intercepted phone calls established that Thursday’s attack was planned by a top leader of FARC, a group that has been fighting the government for more than four decades.
“Compatriots, for the dignity of the motherland and future generations, we must confront the terrorists so as to not be forever enslaved to them,” Uribe said.
General Freddy Padilla, head of Colombia’s armed forces, told Caracol Radio Friday that investigators had the recordings and they would not be released to the public.
A series of conciliatory remarks by Uribe in recent weeks had fed speculation the government was trying to arrange a swap of hundreds of jailed rebels for some 60 political prisoners held by the FARC, including three American defence contractors.
But Uribe on Friday quashed hopes for an eventual deal, ordering peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo and other envoys to immediately cease contact with the guerrillas, whom he called “terrorists” and “scoundrels.”
He also asked three European peace promoters, France, Spain and Switzerland to provide military instead of diplomatic assistance to guarantee the release of the hostages, some of whom have been captive for more than a decade.
“The only option left is a military rescue,” Uribe said.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, in a statement issued late Friday, reiterated his government’s opposition “to any effort to rescue the hostages by force.”
In the last military operation to rescue hostages, in May 2003, rebels killed 10 hostages, including a former defence minister and provincial governor, as an army rescue squad approached a FARC camp deep in the jungle.
Uribe’s hardened stance drew swift condemnation from hostage family members.
“The president’s speech condemns to death the kidnapped hostages,” said a weeping Yolanda Pulecio, whose daughter Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning in the jungle for Colombia’s presidency.
Thursday’s blast at Nueva Granada military university occurred while Commander of the Army General Mario Montoya and foreign dignitaries were attending an event at the academy. One of his bodyguards was among the injured.
From AP, Oct. 21:
A French group pressing for Colombian rebels to free thousands of hostages, some of whom have been held captive for more than a decade, warned on Saturday that armed intervention could lead to disaster for the captives.
The International Federation of Committees for Ingrid Betancourt appealed to European leaders to ensure that the government in Bogata does not resort to force in an effort to free the captives.
Concern has mounted that armed intervention could be the next step after President Alvaro Uribe on Friday withdrew his offer to negotiate a humanitarian prisoner exchange with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which holds thousands of hostages.
The change of stance was triggered by a car bomb on Thursday reportedly set off by FARC that injured 23 people.
“To return to the military option to liberate the hostages would be a drama without precedent,” the federation said in a statement. “A military operation … would be almost certainly fatal to the hostages.”
The group appealed to European Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso, French President Jacques Chirac and other European governments to press Colombian authorities to ensure that a negotiated solution be found.
There had been speculation that the Colombian government was trying to arrange a swap of hundreds of jailed rebels for some 60 people held by the FARC. However, on Friday Uribe ordered peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo and other envoys to immediately cease contact with the guerrillas.
He asked three European mediating countries — France, Spain and Switzerland — to provide military instead of diplomatic assistance to guarantee the release of the hostages, saying that a military solution was “the only option.”
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, in a statement late Friday, reiterated France’s opposition “to any effort to rescue the hostages by force.” He said he was “convinced a peaceful solution is possible.”
Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning for Colombia’s presidency, also has French citizenship and has become a cause celebre in France. She is still being held by her captors.
See our last post on Colombia.