“We are doing well, and we hope that soon we will see the finish of the FARC,” Araújo said in English in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Tokyo.
Araújo, who escaped in 2007 after six years as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as the rebels are known, said the government is seeking contact with the group in a bid to free as many as 700 captives. Government troops on July 2 rescued former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages after mediation efforts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez failed.
Colombia and Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in March after President Álvaro Uribe sent troops across the border into Ecuador to kill the FARC’s second-in-command, Raúl Reyes. Troops found computer files that Colombia says show Chávez was aiding the rebels with as much as $300 million and weapons. Chávez, who has denied he supported the FARC, will today meet with Uribe in Venezuela to mend ties.
Uribe, 56, a lawyer whose father was killed by the FARC, won election in 2002 on a pledge to crush the group. Taking advantage of $5 billion of U.S. aid furnished in the past seven years, he sent battalions deep into the jungles to seek out rebel hubs and camps. He expanded the army by 44 percent while U.S.-trained special forces troops pursued the rebels, supplied from the air by helicopters. The offensive helped cut FARC numbers in half to about 8,000, kidnappings by 83 percent and terrorist attacks by 76 percent by the end of last year.
“There has been a very long history of violence in Colombia and that has been very bad for our economy,” said Araújo. “Crimes have been coming down in Colombia, kidnappings, all kinds of crimes have been coming down.” (Bloomberg)