Raúl Reyes, secretary of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), issued a call June 29 for the suspension of military operations in the southwest of Colombia to allow for the transfer of the bodies of 11 lawmakers who died in guerilla captivity on the 18th. The call came in an open letter to the relatives of the legislators and former cabinet minister Alvaro Leyva Durán, who led the failed peace dialogue wiith the FARC in 1998 and has since been involved in efforts to free the hostages. The letter comes a day after the FARC’s Joint Western Command (Comando Conjunto de Occidente) e-mailed a communique to the Colombian media asserting the legislators had been killed in crossfire between the guerillas and an “unidentified military group.” (La Jornada, Mexico, June 29)
But President Alvaro Uribe, speaking live on national television, accused the FARC of killing the lawmakers in cold blood. Uribe denied that a rescue attempt was made, or that there were any such military operations on June 18 in zones where the hostages are thought to have been held. “The FARC wants to blame these deaths on the armed forces,” said Uribe, whose father was killed by the rebel band two decades ago. “The FARC wants to hide this crime against humanity that it committed.”
The FARC statement said a 12th lawmaker, Sigifredo Lopez, was not with the others at the time of the attack. The 12 deputies are among 60 prominent hostages held by the FARC, along with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractos. More than 3,000 people held in captivity by various Colombian armed factions.
Jo Rosano, the mother of hostage US contractor Marc Gonsalves, expressed exasperation with Uribe. “I don’t trust that man one bit,” she told the AP by telephone from Connecticut. “If we’re close to any type of humanitarian exchange, it’s sabotaged.” (AP, June 28)