Colombia’s FARC guerilla army announced Feb. 26 its intention to release all 10 captive members of the security forces, and to abandon kidnapping of civilians for extortion purposes. The announcement was made in a statement published on the website of ANNCOL, a news organization with alleged ties to the rebel group. The FARC announced “our decision to add the remaining four to the announced decision to release six prisoners of war” and that “from today on we ban the practice” of “the retention of people…in order to finance our struggle.” The guerrilla group announced that it will continue its armed struggle, but to “resort to other forms of funding and political pressure.”
In a response on Twitter, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was said to be “very happy for the ten hostages they will release and their families.” He added: “We appreciate the announcement of the FARC to renounce all kidnapping as an important and necessary step…” But he also stated it was “not enough.” The Colombian government has always demanded the release of the hostages and the abandoning of kidnapping to start peace talks with the FARC, but have additionally demanded the guerrilla group cease “terrorist activity.”
In their statement, the rebels blamed the Santos administration for taking “the arrogant decision” to “increase military spending, the number of troops and operations,” which will result in “an indefinite prolongation of the war… more death and destruction, more injured, more prisoners of war on both sides…” (Colombia Reports, Feb. 26)
The announcement comes amid a growing scandal involving government officials and demobilized FARC fighters. Former FARC guerrilla Felipe Salazar AKA “Biofilo”—who headed the fake “demobilization” of a non-existent FARC front—said his former associates and officials were in involved in other staged demobilizations. Speaking to Colombian newscaster Noticias Uno, Biofilo, said that former guerrilla Olivo Saldaña participated in another false-demobilization before that of the “Cacica Gaitana” front, for which the guerrilla and fugitive former peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo is on trial.
“The [first] false-demobilization was ‘Norma Patricia Galeano’… The FARC took up that name and created an urban structure that they supposedly demobilized in November 2006, which Olivio Saldaña took part in,” said Biofilo. He said authorities must have known that the “Cacica” surrender was staged, since the same people were involved in the previous allegedly fake demobilization.
Saldaña, who received both financial and legal benefits from the former administration of President Alvaro Uribe, has at various time both denied that “Cacica” was a false-demobilization, stating that it operated as a real branch of the FARC, and admitted the demobilization was fake, but that he was solely responsible for the fraud. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 27)
See our last post on Colombia.