As Colombia troops search for two missing police officers who were allegedly kidnapped by the FARC, the country’s largest left-wing insurgency, Colombia’s vice-president on Sunday demanded that the guerrillas return the officials.
Vice-President Angelino Garzon said that the guerrillas should return the police officers immediately, saying that they “cannot continue attacking their own people.”
“The practice of kidnapping can not continue, even less when representatives of the FARC guerrilla group are in peace talks,” Garzon said.
The left-wing guerrillas, who are in peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, kidnapped two police officers in the towns of Palmira and Pradera in the troubled southwestern Valle del Cauca department.
According to local media, government forces are on the hunt for the alleged kidnappers and believe they are closing in on them. They have sent new troops to the area, including elite “Gaula” troops who specialize in locating and releasing kidnap victims.
The kidnapping took place six days after the end of the FARC’s unilateral cease-fire and almost a year after the FARC announced it would cease kidnapping citizens as a form of income or to generate political leverage. In December, FARC member Sandra Ramirez leader told a Cuban newspaper that the rebels still had “prisoners of war” and claimed that this did not contradict the FARC’s decision to cease kidnapping citizens.
“Policemen [and soldiers] captured in combat [are] different: they are prisoners of war because they are captured in combat,” said Ramirez.
BACKGROUND: FARC admits to holding hostages
Her admissions, true or not, set off a public relations fiasco for the guerrilla negotiators who quickly said she was mistaken, misquoted, and misinformed.
BACKGROUND: FARC claim to have no ‘prisoners of war’