On the morning of Feb. 1 the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released three captured police agents and one soldier to a humanitarian mission in the jungles of the southern Colombian department of Caquetá. The prisoners, all captured in 2007, were the first of six FARC detainees scheduled to be released over a period of four days. The rebel group said it would free former governor Alan Jara on Feb. 2 and former legislator Sigifredo López on Feb. 4. Jara was kidnapped on June 5, 2001; López has been held since Apr. 11, 2002.
The handover of the prisoners required a complicated arrangement involving the Brazilian government, the Colombian military, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the activist group Colombians for Peace, which includes Ivan Cepeda, president of the National Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE); Gloria Cuartas, a former mayor in the Apartadó region; and Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist weekly Voz. The mission that received the prisoners was to go first to San Gabriel de Cachoeira in Brazil and then fly into Colombia in a Cugar helicopter provided by Brazil for the meeting with the FARC. After receiving the prisoners, the mission, headed by opposition senator Piedad Córdoba, flew them to Villavicencio in Meta department.
The Feb. 1 handover went relatively smoothly, although the FARC and Colombians for Peace charged that the Colombian military hadn’t honored its commitment to suspend operations in the area. Originally President Alvaro Uribe had objected to any involvement by Senator Córdoba, who worked with leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for a hostage release in January 2008. (Adital, Jan. 30; Semana, Colombia, Feb. 1; Clarin, Argentina, Feb. 2)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 1
See our last post on Colombia and the FARC.