Colombia: two FARC hostages free鈥攁nd talking

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released former Meta governor Alan Jara to a humanitarian mission on Feb. 3 in Guaviare department; the rebels had held him as a hostage for more than seven and a half years. On Feb. 5 the group released former legislative deputy Sigifredo L贸pez in Cauca department; L贸pez, who had spent almost seven years in captivity, is the only surviving member of a group of 12 deputies from Valle del Cauca department captured by the FARC in April 2002.

The two hostages’ release was part of 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; three police agents and one soldier were freed through the same arrangement on Feb. 1. A dispute between Colombians for Peace and the government over military operations delayed the release of Jara and L贸pez by one day.

In a press conference held in Villavicencio hours after his release on Feb. 3, former governor Jara had harsh words both for the FARC and for President Alvaro Uribe. “It would seem,” he said, “that the situation of war that the country is experiencing suits president Uribe鈥攁nd the FARC too, it would seem鈥攁nd this is what’s perverse.”

“I’m sorry with all my heart that Uribe didn’t do anything for our freedom,” he added. Although the rebels had treated him well enough, Jara said: “I don’t know what they think, I don’t understand them.” President Uribe met with Jara later that evening but didn’t comment on the former governor’s remarks. On Feb. 4 government officials suggested that Jara was suffering from “Stockholm Sindrome,” an identification captives supposedly feel with their captors.

L贸pez held his own press conference soon after he arrived in Cali on Feb. 5. He charged that the FARC was entirely to blame for the deaths of the other 11 Valle del Cauca deputies on June 18, 2007. The FARC command had given an order for the deputies to be killed in the event of a rescue attempt, he said. When six rebels from the FARC’s 19th front arrived without warning, “El Grillo,” commander of the 60th Front 60, mistook them for the military and had the hostages killed, according to L贸pez. It was “because of pure paranoia and because the FARC is a killing machine,” he said. “They killed them from cowardice.”

L贸pez himself had been separated from the other deputies for disciplinary reasons and so was spared. He told the reporters that for days after the incident he wouldn’t say anything to his captors except: “Murdering bastards.”

Both Jara and L贸pez said that they would work for the rebels and the government to agree on an exchange of 22 soldiers and police agents still held by the FARC for a number of imprisoned rebels. (Univision, Feb. 4 from AFP; AFP, Feb. 5; El Financiero, Mexico, Feb. 5 from Notimex/GCE; La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 8

See our last post on Colombia and the FARC.

  1. Colombia won’t extradite FARC’s “Gafas”
    US ambassador to Bogot谩 William Brownfield publicly called upon Colombia to explain why its Supreme Court refused to allow the extradition of Alexander Farf谩n AKA “Gafas,” the FARC guerilla who was the guard of three US citizens freed by the Colombian army in last year’s famous “Operation Jaque.”

    “Gafas” (glasses), cannot be extradited on kidnapping and terrorism charges because “the crimes for which he is wanted were committed in national territory,” the court said in a written opinion. Gafas and his fellow guerilla “C茅sar,” who was also captured during Operation Jaque, have already pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rebellion before a Colombian court. The two were captured in the same military operation that freed the three US military contractors, 11 members of the Colombian security forces, and former politician Ingrid Betancourt. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 6)