The former guerilla leader Alexander Beltran Herrera pled guilty to three counts related to hostage taking in a US District Court in the country’s capital, reported the United States Department of Justice. Beltran is currently in custody at the United States.
Beltran, alias “Rodrigo Pirinolo” was formerly a commander for the 27th Front of the FARC – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – operating in the southern jungles of Colombia. Rodrigo Pirinolo reportedly testified that he was in charge of guarding the three hostages for almost two of the five years the Americans spent in FARC captivity.
Rodrigo Pirinolo is set to be sentenced for these crimes on July 25. The sentence can extend to a maximum of 60 years, as mandated by Colombian extradition policy. At least four other former FARC members are also serving prison sentences in the United States relating to the 2003 kidnapping.
In 2003, three American contractors working for the US State Department were captured after their small airplane crashed in the southern Colombian state of Caqueta. There were five original occupants of the plane, however an American pilot and a Colombian national were reportedly executed shortly after the crash. The three surviving American citizens Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Kieth Stansell, were marched into the jungle by FARC members for 40 days until reaching a guerilla camp, where they were held for almost two years under Rodrigo Pirinolo.
In July 2008, the Americans were rescued by Colombian security forces after over five years in captivity alongside nearly a dozen Colombian police and military members and former Presidential Candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
The FARC is the oldest rebel group in Colombia, having operated in the South American nation for 50 years. During the late 1990s and first decade of the 2000s, the FARC was particularly active in kidnapping. Since November 2012, the FARC has taken part in peace dialogues with the Colombian government in Cuba. During this time kidnappings have fallen dramatically.