FARC Guerrillas Announce Further Hostage Releases

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 3 February 2008

The High Command of the FARC rebel group in Colombia have announced that they will shortly be freeing three Colombian politicians who they have been holding prisoner due to health concerns. The revelation comes less than a month after two other political figures being held by the guerrillas were released by the rebel group in a humanitarian gesture following the intervention of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Orlando Beltran Cuellar, Gloria Polanco de Losada and Luis Eladio Perez are all former members of the Colombian Congress and have been held by the FARC, along with various other political and military figures, in an effort to convince the Colombian Government to engage in a 'Humanitarian Exchange' of prisoners. The FARC and the Colombian Government have carried out several such exchanges in the past, although none have happened since rightwing hardliner Alvaro Uribe came to power in 2002. He has refused to negotiate with the rebels.

The guerrillas said that they would be willing to hand the three over to President Chavez or Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, or delegates nominated by them. The FARC cited "medical reasons" for the new releases but warned that due to security concerns the liberation could take some time to complete.

The previous release, of politicians Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, was repeatedly delayed due to the Colombian Air Force repeatedly bombing the zone in which they were due to be freed. Ms Gonzalez subsequently gave press interviews in which she stated that the guerrilla column bringing the two of them to the rendezvous point was severely delayed after being attacked by Air Force jets. The Colombian Government has denied this.

In the conclusion of their communiqué the guerrillas announced that they remained committed to a humanitarian exchange "as the only way to get all hostages freed".

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