Responding to this week’s public demonstrations calling for peace, the guerrilla leader said, “The slogans of the marchers who went out into the streets moved us to demand a humanitarian exchange between hostages and guerrillas, the political solution, before the conversations begin.”
The 52-year-old rebel did not sound overly impressed with the outcome of the government-backed protests, adding, “We are not killing ourselves with laughter over the low turnout of the promoted marches.”
Organizers had hoped for hundreds of thousands to take to the streets, but in the end no more than 10,000 attended the nationwide marches. Government-promoted protests have traditionally suffered a drastically lower turnout than independent demonstrations.
Timochenko claimed that the families of four hostages murdered by the rebels as soldiers approached their camp earlier this month had wanted to negotiate a prisoner swap, rather than risk a rescue operation.
In the statement, published on the FARC website, the rebel said, “Any humanitarian agreement can open the doors to a peace dialogue in Colombia. We should bring back total urgency to the (…) clamor for peace, to put a complete halt to the dangerous agitation of those who scream out for total war.”
On Wednesday, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said he was willing to provide facilities for he unilateral release of FARC hostages, following the rebels’ announcement that they were willing to let some of its prisoners go.
However he insisted that the rebels release all hostages unconditionally as a gesture of peace, before any negotiations could begin. He has categorically ruled out any prisoner exchange.