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Latino Daily News

Thursday March 22, 2012

Mediator in Colombian Says FARC Will Free Soldiers and Police Next Week

The FARC rebel group’s promised release of 10 police and soldiers will begin on March 26, a former Colombian senator involved in the process said Wednesday.

“With much joy and satisfaction, we want to inform you that next Monday the FARC will deliver the 10 uniformed people, police and soldiers, who are in their power,” Piedad Cordoba told a press conference in the capital.

Joining her for the announcement were FARC-designated intermediary Marleny Orjuela and journalist Carlos Lozano, editor of Colombian Communist Party weekly Voz.

All three expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Colombian government, Brazil - providing helicopters for the mission - and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is coordinating the operation.

The handover will require two days, Cordoba said, without providing any further details.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, requested last month that Orjuela, who leads an organization representing the families of rebel captives, manage the logistics for the release of the last 10 security force members held by the guerrillas.

Set to be released are soldiers Luis Alfonso Beltran Franco, Luis Arturo Arcia, Robinson Salcedo Guarin and Luis Alfredo Moreno Chag├╝eza, and police Carlos Jose Duarte, Cesar Augusto Lasso Monsalve, Jorge Trujillo Solarte, Jorge Humberto Romero, Jose Libardo Forero and Wilson Rojas Medina.

All 10 were captured by the FARC in 1998 and 1999.

The FARC, Colombia’s largest insurgency, once held around 60 security force members and politicians, dubbed the “exchangeables,” who the guerrillas hoped to trade for hundreds of jailed rebels.

But the most valuable exchangeables, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, were rescued by the Colombian military in July 2008.

While never abandoning the demand for a prisoner swap, the FARC soon embarked on a series of unilateral releases of the remaining political captives.