The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said Sunday it
will free remaining hostages and stop kidnapping civilians in a bid
to restart peace talks with the government.
Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), announced Sunday it would abandon the practice of
kidnapping - a tactic that has long defined the FARC.
The group's declaration is a clear sign that the guerrillas are
angling to restart peace talks with the government. However,
analysts say negotiations to end the nearly five-decade-long
conflict in Colombia are still far off.
In a communique posted on the rebels' website and signed by the
ruling secretariat, the FARC announced it would "forbid the
practice" of kidnapping "as part of our revolutionary actions." The
FARC also said it would release its 10 remaining "prisoners of war,"
members of Colombia's security forces, some of whom have been held
for as long as 14 years. There was no word as to when the releases
would take place, or how many civilian hostages remained.
But with the announced liberation of the last remaining
"swappable" hostages - policemen and soldiers - the FARC are giving
up on one of their most long-held demands: an exchange of military
and political hostages in return for jailed rebels.
Luis Eduardo Celis, an analyst with Nuevo Arco Iris, a conflict
research center, says the recent decision by the FARC was aimed at
creating conditions for peace talks. The FARC's new leader Rodrigo
Londono, known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, sees himself as
"the man who will take the FARC out of the conflict," says Mr.
Celis. Timochenko took over in November 2011 after former FARC
leader Alfonso Cano died in a raid on his camp.
"It's a game where each side is taking positions. President
Santos offers the victims [a] land restitution process. The FARC
offer an end to kidnapping," Celis says, referring to a law that
went into effect in January providing damage payments to victims of
the Colombian conflict and giving back land to those driven from
their homes by the violence.
However, President Juan Manuel Santos declared the FARC's
announcement an "important though insufficient step in the right
direction." In addition to ending kidnapping, the government also
demands that the FARC end forced recruitment, ban the use of
landmines and leave civilians out of the conflict.
In the 1980s and '90s, at the height of the Colombian conflict,
the FARC used ransom payments to fund their fight against the state,
and used political hostages to put pressure on the government. Many
rightwing paramilitary groups began to emerge in reaction the FARC's
widespread practice of kidnapping, and Colombia became known as the
kidnapping capital of the world.
In the mid 1990s Colombia witnessed more than 2500 abductions a
year, most of which were attributed to the FARC. …