An alleged dissident faction of the FARC, until last year Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a UN employee and laid out their conditions for his release.
Colombian radio stations Caracol and RCN received a letter dated May 5, two days after the kidnapping, in which the FARC’s dissident 1st Front confirmed holding the Colombian UN worker hostage.
According to RCN Radio, authorities are investigating the authenticity of the letter.
The Colombian government or the UN have yet to either confirm or deny the veracity of the three-page letter in which the guerrillas vow to release the Colombian UN worker “if and when there are guarantees on behalf of the Colombian government and a development plan is carried out that solves the social and economic issues of farmers and coca growers.”
We ask the international community, President Juan Manuel Santos and his government, and the political parties for a serious and integrated development plan that satisfies the needs of farmers and coca growers before any attempt to eradication so the farmers can gradually desist from the cultivation of the aforementioned.
Paradoxically, Arley Lopez was kidnapped after a meeting with coca growers exactly to explain rural development and coca crop substitution plans rolled out by the government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as part of a peace process with the FARC.
Since then, locals and UN workers have been looking for the kidnapped UNODC official in the jungles of of the southern Guaviare province without the help of Colombia’s security forces.
The 1st Front announced its rejection of a peace process to end 52 years of guerrilla warfare in July last year, two months before Santos and the FARC signed the first draft of the historic peace deal that was ultimately approved by Congress in November.
However, the guerrillas of the 1st Front are in disagreement with concessions made by the FARC leadership in order to come to an agreement.
According to the hard-line dissidents “the Colombian state and its allies only seek the disarmament and the demobilization of the guerrillas … They want to continue governing with the same economic model” the national FARC organization seeks to fight without arms and from Congress.
While not presented as a condition for the release of Lopez, the 1st Front asked the UN “to contribute to the release of comrade ‘Simon Trinidad’ who is held prisoner in prisons (sic} in the United States.”
Trinidad’s release was one of the initial FARC demands the now-demobilizing guerrillas abandoned. The prominent former FARC member was long one of the guerrillas’ intellectual leaders until his arrest in Ecuador in 2004. He is currently serving a 60-year sentence in the US.