World Bulletin/News Desk
Two soldiers who were kidnapped earlier this month by FARC guerrillas were released Tuesday against a tense backdrop of uncertainty about the two-year-old peace talks between the rebels and the government.
“We inform all Colombians that the professional soldiers Paulo César Rivera and Jonathan Andrés Díaz who were captured in combat on Nov. 9 were freed today by the FARC safe and healthy in the plains of Arauca. The two soldiers, who belong to the Quiron Task Force, were handed over to a humanitarian mission led by representatives of the two guarantor nations of Cuba and Norway and members of the ICRC,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said in a statement on its website.
But the leader of the FARC said Monday that President Juan Manuel Santos’ decision to temporarily suspend the peace dialogues after a series of hostage takings had destroyed the confidence in the peace process.
“The negotiations cannot just be restarted,” said Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri in a communiqué. “It will be necessary to make new considerations,” he added. Echeverri, also known as “Timochenko," suggested that the government’s practice of continuing military activities in the areas where the prisoner releases are meant to take place – including in the pacific department of Choco where Gen. Rubén Alzate and two others were recently kidnapped – does not respect, “the agreement reached by both sides."
The peace dialogues between the rebels, which has been engaged in five decades of armed conflict against the government, and the negotiating team in Havana, began in November 2012. Despite having reached agreements on the issues of agrarian reform, political participation and illicit drugs, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended talks after Gen. Alzate was kidnapped Nov. 16 in the town of Las Mercedes, close to the city of Quibdo, the capital of Choco.
The FARC agreed to free the general and two others who were captured along with him. In addition Rivera and Díaz were also agreed to be released. A delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was in place in the city of Tame waiting for the map coordinates of the soldiers.
The FARC has long pushed for a cease-fire to be employed during the peace negotiations, something the government adamantly refuses to do in the face of continuing attacks by the guerrilla group.
The island of Gorgona, a national park located off the pacific coast and known for its environmental diversity was attacked Saturday by FARC’s 29th Front resulting in the death of one policeman and injuries to several others.
Temístocles Ortega Narváez, the governor of Cauca where Gorgona is located, called the attack “demented and irrational.”
Tourism has been indefinitely suspended on the island. Gorgona is just 35 miles (56 km) from the mainland but is strategically located in an area used by the FARC to ship cocaine out of the departments of Cauca and Nariño.
Last Mod: 26 Kasım 2014, 00:05