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Latino Daily News

Tuesday May 15, 2012

France Yet To Respond to Colombian Rebels’ Offer to Release French Journalist

France Yet To Respond to Colombian Rebels’ Offer to Release French Journalist

Photo: Romeo Langlois

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Former Sen. Piedad Cordoba and the International Committee of the Red Cross agreed on Monday to form a delegation to receive a French journalist captured last month by leftist FARC rebels while embedded with Colombian security forces, but neither Paris nor Bogota commented on the proposed release.

French authorities “are fully mobilized and in constant contact with the Colombians to obtain the liberation” of Romeo Langlois, a government spokesman said in Paris.

Fran├žois Hollande, who will be sworn in on Tuesday as France’s new president, did not respond to the FARC’s request that he send a personal envoy to take part in the journalist’s release.

Langlois, the Colombia correspondent for France 24 television and Paris daily Le Figaro, went missing April 28 amid fighting between rebels and soldiers in the jungles of the southern province of Caqueta.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, initially said it was prepared to release the Frenchman only in the context of a debate on the role of the press in covering the Andean nation’s decades-long armed conflict.

In a message released Sunday, however, the insurgents said they would hand over Langlois to a delegation comprising Cordoba, the ICRC and a representative designated by Hollande.

“All our teams are available” for an operation to retrieve Langlois, the head of the ICRC’s Colombia office, Jordi Raich, said Monday in Bogota.

Cordoba, who was ousted from the Colombian Senate for alleged collusion with the FARC, said she could not refuse to take part in a humanitarian mission.

She has helped broker the FARC’s release of score of prisoners - Colombian politicians, soldiers and police - since 2008 and leads a group called Colombians for Peace.

Langlois was accompanying a task force of police and troops when the contingent was ambushed by FARC units, sparking a battle that left four members of the security forces dead.

The journalist was wounded in the firefight and fled toward the rebel lines, after shedding the army helmet and bulletproof vest he was wearing.

A FARC medic treated Langlois’ wound, but the rebels then decided to hold him as a prisoner of war.

“Romeo Langlois wore regular-army military garb in the middle of a battle. We believe the least that can be expected for the full recovery of his freedom is the opening of a broad national and international debate on the freedom of information,” the FARC said last week.

“The journalists the Colombian armed forces bring on their military operations do not fulfill the impartial proposition of reporting about reality, but rather that of manipulating,” the insurgent high command said.

Colombia’s defense minister rejected the FARC’s call for a debate.

“This criminal organization cannot impose conditions of any kind. The government cannot debate with criminals,” Juan Carlos Pinzon said last week.

Amnesty International and the Inter American Press Association responded to the FARC’s statement by insisting the rebels release Langlois without conditions.

In the message outlining the plan to deliver Langlois to a humanitarian delegation, the FARC said the reporter will face a choice of “fulfilling the role expected by the Colombian government, its armed forces and the giant media outlets, or remaining true to his conscience and telling the truth.”

Should Langlois pursue the second course of action, “it might be that some of those who today demand his immediate release will turn on him and destroy him completely,” the FARC said.