Sunday, November 30, 2014

Colombia: President Santos' Weakened with No Consequences for Late Release of Three Hostages

According to EFE, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) confirmed Saturday (November 29) that Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate and the two other hostages with him will be released this Sunday (November 30), after activating early Saturday morning the humanitarian protocol for their release.

“In the early hours on Saturday the Special Humanitarian Protocol was activated for freeing, tomorrow Sunday, Gen. Alzate Mora, head of the army’s Titan Task Force, Cpl. (Jorge) Rodríguez Contreras and attorney Gloria Urrego,” the peace negotiators of the FARC said in a communiqué from Havana.

According to the text, Alzate, Rodríguez and Urrego will be released b FARC commanders of the Ivan Rios Bloc to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to representatives from Cuba and Norway, guarantor nations of the peace talks that the Colombian government has held with the FARC in Havana since 2012.

“We hope that the times favor this humanitarian mission, which today waves in the immensity of Atrato the white flag of Liberty and Peace,” the FARC said.

COMMENT: Even as peace negotiations have continued since 2012, I find it very strange that President Santos has not levied some consequences for the captives’ abduction, particularly considering that the three captives release were further delayed and not released on Saturday as the FARC had promised.

If anything, such an “unwarranted pass” places President Santos in a position of weakness, given the FARC’s going back on their word.

The Atrato River in Choco province has been the scene of a number of clashes of armed groups due to its strategic pass to the Pacific Ocean, through which arms are brought in and drugs shipped out.

“We want this liberty, founded on humanitarian principles, to extend its beneficent effects to all political and social prisoners of the country. How easy and how humanitarian it is for the government to decree a pardon for the innocent,” the FARC said.

Gen. Alzate, Cpl. Rodríguez and attorney Urrego were seized by the FARC in Choco province on November 16, which led Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend peace talks with the insurgents.

A few days later the two sides agreed on conditions for freeing the hostages as soon as possible, so as to open the way to renewing negotiations to end the Colombian conflict.

Gen. Alzate is the highest-ranking military officer ever captured by the FARC and is considered by the guerrilla organization as a “prisoner of war.”

The FARC also promised to free Saturday an Indian boy it has held captive since Nov. 20 in the southwestern Colombian province of Cauca, Fabian Mulcue, a member of the Indigenous Guard that will take part in the youth’s release, told EFE.

The minor, a young defender of the Pioya commune, will be set free “this afternoon” at a place somewhere in the extensive jurisdiction of Caldono, where the community is located and where he was kidnapped.

The insurgent group already freed last Tuesday (November 25) two soldiers kidnapped on November 9 in eastern Colombia, in an operation seen as a precedent for the anticipated release of Gen. Alzate.


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