The leftist FARC guerrilla group on Sunday dropped a demand for
demilitarizing an area in southeastern Colombia as a precondition for
negotiations on a swap of 22 hostages for rebel prisoners, even as the
government hardened its stand.
“We are ready for an exchange of
prisoners of war,” the central command of the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said in a statement, saying it was not
inclined to make the venue of the negotiations an “unsolvable
Instead, the statement asked for “effective guarantees” for three FARC
leaders chosen to negotiate the swap – Pablo Catatumbo, Carlos Antonio
Lozada and Fabian Ramirez.
The move came a day after President Alvaro Uribe rejected a political
dialogue with the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, with an
estimated 7,000 fighters.
Uribe accused it of launching an offensive to mark the first
anniversary of the death of its founder, Manuel Marulanda, known as
“What dialogue can be had with these bandits who distinguish themselves
by putting explosives near schools and in the path of children?” Uribe
said at a rally in Bogota. “Dialogue is with democracy. Dialogue is not
with the terrorists.”
The FARC had demanded that the towns of Florida and Pradera in the
southeastern province of Valle del Cauca be demilitarized as a
condition for negotiating a swap of hostages for captured rebels.
The government rejected the demand, arguing that the guerrilla group
would use the demilitarization of the area to ship cocaine out and move
weapons and supplies in to rebel forces.
The FARC statement was addressed to “Colombians for Peace,” a group led
by opposition senator Piedad Cordoba, which have urged the rebels to
renounce kidnappings for ransom as a condition for negotiating a
“We have consulted all our political-military structures and we can
report that to date only nine are being held (for ransom) under the
FARC’s responsibility,” the statement said.
The rebels promised that when conditions are favorable they would
deliver proof of life for 22 captured soldiers and reveal the location
of the remains of army major Ernesto Guevara, who died in captivity.
In February, three police officers, a soldier and two politicians who
had been held as hostages for more than six years were released by the
FARC to Colombians for Peace and the International Committee of the Red