Former FARC hostage sues state for damages

Former FARC hostage and politician Sigifredo Lopez is suing the Colombian government for what he says are security failings that enabled the leftist insurgents to kidnap him and eleven other lawmakers in Cali eight years ago.

Lopez, who at the time of his kidnapping was a deputy for the western Valle de Cauca department, said that weak security at the state legislature offices allowed the FARC to capture him and his colleagues in a high-profile kidnapping operation on April 11, 2002. According to Lopez, months prior to the kidnapping the chief of security at the state legislature, the military and the police all received repeated letters urging them to increase security at the assembly offices, but the recommendations were ignored.

Lopez spent seven years in captivity before the FARC released him on February 5, 2009. The eleven other lawmakers who were kidnapped alongside him were murdered in June 2007 when the guerrillas mistakenly thought they were under attack from the government . Lopez said he only survived because he was chained to a tree 50 meters away from the other hostages, in punishment for his “insurbordinate” behavior.

“We were taken out of the center of Cali, my companions were assassinated five years later, I lasted another year and a half in terrible conditions,” Lopez said in an interview, adding, “this isn’t about money, but justice.”

Lopez said that the state had already offered him $20,000 in damages, but that he did not find the amount acceptable. He has a degenerative illness that was exacerbated during his years in captivity, he told W Radio.

Lopez was the last politician to be held by the FARC before his release in 2009, until the recent kidnapping of the governor of Caqueta.

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