Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC demands the Colombian government to agree with the release of 500 imprisoned guerrillas, before “unilaterally’ allowing the promised release of two soldiers in rebel captivity.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said the Colombian government should publicly guarantee protocols and make “unilateral gestures” on prisoner exchanges, the Anncol news agency reported Thursday.
Ivan Marquez, a member of the Secretariat of the rebel organization, said the unilateral release of imprisoned guerrillas by the government is necessary to expedite any release of prisoners, including Colombian soldiers Pablo Emilio Moncayo and José Daniel Calvo.
Earlier, the guerrillas had promised to unilaterally release these two soldiers as a sign of good will towards the attempts of opposition senator Piedad Cordoba to seek a humanitarian exchange, or prisoner swap. The rebels now demand the government to commit to this humanitarian exchange before moving forward with the release of the soldiers who have been in the jungle for more than ten years.
“Once the government are defined by these assurances, we will proceed to the release of two prisoners of war,” Marquez told the news organization.
Marquez added that the hostages would be released to a humanitarian commission headed by Senator Piedad Córdoba on behalf of Colombians for Peace. The humanitarian mission would be accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Colombian bishops. The Colombian government recently agreed to these conditions, but demand the FARC to initiate a process leading to the release of all members of the security forces held by the guerrillas.
In return, the FARC now demand a gesture from the government.
“The FARC are confident that a unilateral gesture will create an environment to enable progress towards a process of exchange of prisoners of war held by the contending parties. After having released over 300 prisoners unilaterally captured in combat, the FARC aspire, by agreement, that 500 guerrillas imprisoned in the jails of the regime. For its part, the FARC would release two dozen officers and NCOs of the Armed Forces who remain captive in the mountains .
“The FARC are confident that a unilateral gesture will create an environment to enable progress towards an of exchange of prisoners of war held by the contending parties,” Marquez said.
“After having released over 300 prisoners unilaterally captured in combat, the FARC aspire, by agreement, that the nearly 500 guerrillas be released from jails of the regime. For its part, the FARC would release two dozen officers and non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces who remain captive in the mountains.”
The FARC is holding 24 members of Colombia’s security forces as “prisoners of war” in jungle camps. The guerrillas are also suspected of having kidnapped hundreds of civilians for extortion purposes.