A group of former FARC hostages is leading a march, organized by Colombian human rights NGO CODHES, to demand “action” on the proposed humanitarian exchange of jailed FARC members for the remaining captives held by the guerrilla group, reports Las Voces Del Secuestro.
CODHES says that following the Colombian army’s rescue of FARC hostages Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors in July 2008, “the international community forgot about the rest of the hostages.” The NGO is organizing the march to raise greater international awareness of the issue and to “demand concrete action.”
“We must demand that the government and the FARC sit down and take concrete decisions, because those who are abducted are human beings who have been tied to a stick,” said former congressman and former hostage Luis Eladio Perez.
A humanitarian exchange of FARC hostages for guerrillas incarcerated in both Colombia and the U.S. has been in discussion since the FARC released two hostages along with the remains of a third last week.
Following the hostage liberations, the FARC announced they would not carry out any more unilateral releases. They are now pressing for the humanitarian exchange of their 22 hostages for 500 rebels imprisoned on charges such as terrorism, kidnapping and rebellion.
The rebel group said that a humanitarian exchange is “the only viable way for the prisoners in the jungle and the guerillas imprisoned in the dungeons of Colombia and the United States to return to freedom without threat to their physical integrity.”
Although Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has expressed interest in a humanitarian exchange, the head of state said Monday that “either they [the hostages] are liberated or we continue advancing until we liberate them ourselves.”
FARC liberation coordinator Senator Piedad Cordoba stressed that as Uribe’s tenure draws to an end, the urgency to act increases, because negotiations with a new Colombian president “would be difficult.”