Colombia’s armed forces Sunday breached the agreement with the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by sending airplanes to patrol the sky above the area where four hostages were to
be released. The deal made with Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos did
not allow any military airplanes nearby, the ICRC said Friday.
Santos had said earlier that day that army flights were allowed above 20,000 feet but according to the ICRC, the 20,000 foot limit only applied to commercial traffic. The agreement between the ICRC and the Ministry of Defense was that all military action in the area would be suspended, including that of the Airforce.
The ICRC says the overflights caused a lot of tension in the release operation of four members of the security forces.
According to Daniel Samper, member
of peace activist group ‘Colombians for Peace’ and the humanitarian
mission in charge of the hostage release, the military action had
endangered the release. The activist said Friday the breach
of agreements nearly made the guerrillas cancel the release.
The Defense Minister had already admitted the overflights were an “error” and both Santos and the ICRC say the planes were withdrawn minutes after ICRC delegate Christophe Beney called Santos to request the withdrawal of the airplanes.
According to Santos, Armed Forces commander Freddy Padilla, who had not present at the meeting between authorities and ICRC, had misunderstood the decision regarding military flights.
The breach led to friction not only with the guerrillas, but also between the Government and ‘Colombians for Peace’, who were removed from the humanitarian mission after members accused the Government of having threatened the operation.
The operations to release two politicians, which had been planned for Monday and Wednesday, were delayed one day because of the ordeal.