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COLOMBIA
FARC frees hostages
4/13/2012
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Guerrilla group ends hostage-taking practice.

Colombia’s main guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, on April 2 released 10 soldiers and police officers that it had taken hostage between 12 and 14 years ago, following arduous negotiations.

In an operation that lasted more than seven hours, the International Red Cross Committee and members of the Colombians for Peace movement, led by former Sen. Piedad Córdoba, coordinated the release.

President Juan Manuel Santos applauded the release but said the hundreds of other hostages in FARC’s hands also need to be released. According to nongovernmental organization País Libre, or “Free Country” in English, FARC is holding 407 civilian people.

Weeks before the release, FARC said it would no longer use hostage-taking as a tactic.

“We are ...announcing that from this date, we outlaw that practice in our revolutionary acts," the group said in a communiqué Feb. 26.

The FARC said, however, that if the government continues with its “arrogant decision to increase military spending ... it will prolong the war indefinitely. That will bring with it more death and destruction, more wounds, more prisoners of war on both sides, more unjustly jailed civilians.”

The operation came almost four years after Colombia’s most high-profile rescue: that of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was held by FARC for six years, along with 14 other hostages including three US contractors. That year, Córdoba created Colombians for Peace which has helped the release of 10 civilians and 22 military and police by the guerrilla group, including the most recent release. In 2010 the former senator was barred from holding public office for 18 years for “treason” for this work.
—Latinamerica Press.


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