he FARC guerrillas on Sunday announced that they have banned the practice of kidnapping throughout Colombia and that they will release the 10 soldiers and police officers who remain in their hands as hostages.
The announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, came in a public communique released on its Web site and datelined in the “Colombian mountains.”
“We also announce that starting today we prohibit the practice (of taking people hostage) in our revolutionary activities,” the FARC announced, noting that the decision forces them to overturn a rebel “law” from 2000 regarding financing their group by kidnapping civilians and demanding ransom for their release.
The banning of kidnapping as a political weapon or tool was one of the requests that the group Colombians for Peace, or CCP, headed by former lawmaker Piedad Cordoba, had repeatedly made of the rebels.
Cordoba and the civilian CCP for more than three years have been maintaining a dialogue and exchange with the rebels.
In the same statement, the FARC said that they had agreed to release the 10 soldiers and police they are still holding hostage and not just six of them, as they had previously indicated.
The soldiers, all of whom have been held captive for more than 12 years, are the last military personnel remaining in the insurgents’ hands, although at one time the FARC held more than 50 politicians, soldiers, police officers and three U.S. citizens whom they tried without success to barter for some 500 imprisoned rebels.
The FARC said that they were grateful for and accepted “without hesitation” the offer by the government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to mount the logistics necessary so that a humanitarian delivery of the hostages could be achieved.
“We want to express our feelings of admiration for the relatives of the soldiers and policemen in our power,” the guerrillas’ central command said, and they asked the spokesman for the relatives, Marleny Orjuela, to “receive them on the agreed-upon date,” which has not been made public.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, meanwhile, said Sunday that the FARC decision to ban kidnapping for financial purposes was “insufficient.”
“We value the FARC’s announcement to renounce kidnapping as an important and necessary, but insufficient, step in the right direction,” said Santos on his Twitter account after learning of the rebels’ decision.
The president also tweeted that “we’re very happy for those 10 kidnapped people who they’re going to release and for their families. The government will provide guarantees for there to be no media circus,” alluding to Santos’ stance against having the operation become a media spectacle.
The hostages still in FARC hands are soldiers Luis Alfonso Beltran Franco, Luis Arturo Arcia, Robinson Salcedo Guarin and Luis Alfredo Moreno Chagueza, and police officers Carlos Jose Duarte, Cesar Augusto Lasso Monsalve, Jorge Trujillo Solarte, Jorge Humberto Romero, Jose Libardo Forero and Wilson Rojas Medina.
The men were taken hostage in rebel attacks in 1998 and 1999, the years of heaviest activity by the FARC, which has been in rebellion against the Bogota government since 1964.