Colombian FARC rebels need to spell out the terms for talks aimed at
breaking a deadlock over a deal to free captives held for as long as a
decade, ‘Colombians for Peace’, the group that has brokered past hostage deals said in a letter
The group’s communique, directed to FARC rebel commander Alfonso
Cano, is the latest missive from the group led by left-wing Senator
Piedad Córdoba, who has been instrumental in brokering accords with
Latin America’s oldest insurgency.
“It is urgent to define the framework within which an agreement can
be reached, setting the time, method and place, so we can contribute to
it taking place,” the letter said.
Córdoba, an ally of Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chávez,
helped broker the release of a group of FARC hostages last year and
another six who were freed last month in an operation carried out by
the Red Cross.
The FARC — Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — has fought the
state for more than four decades, helped by its financial gains from
extortion, kidnapping and trade in the country’s huge cocaine business.
But the guerrillas are under heavy pressure from President Alvaro
Uribe’s U.S.-backed military campaign. They lost three top commanders
last year and have been driven back into remote jungles and mountains.
Guerrilla commanders may be trying to gain political space with the
recent unilateral hostage releases while attempting to show they still
have military capacity with ambushes on army patrols and occasional
urban bombs, analysts say.
A deal to exchange jailed rebels for 22 police and soldiers held for
as long as 10 years in rebel jungle camps appears to be stalled over
FARC demands Uribe pull back troops from a rural area to create a safe
haven for negotiations.
But it is unclear whom the rebel command want to be released in any
such deal and whether Cano is still demanding a New York City-sized
safe haven in southern Colombia and also the release of FARC commanders
held in U.S. jails.
Uribe, a hard-liner whose father was killed by the FARC, is popular
for his security campaign. He refuses rebel demands saying that would
allow the FARC to regroup. His government appears set on keeping
pressure on the rebels and forcing individual units to surrender with