Colombian peace activists Piedad Cordoba and Marleny Orjuela have spoken of the international effort underway ahead of the release announced by the FARC of a group of ten hostages held for over twelve years.
The announcement came Sunday and included a pledge from the rebels to abandon kidnapping civilians to finance its armed struggle against the Colombian state. The move is seen as a strong sign that the group is seeking peace negotiations.
Both Cordoba and Orjuela are prominent members of the organization Colombians for Peace, which was nominated by the FARC to act as an intermediary in the process which will also include the International Committee of the Red Cross and the governments of Colombia and Brazil.
Orjuela told Caracol Radio, “I receive with respect the decision of the FARC to include me in the group that will receive the military [hostages], I hope the gentlemen of the national government and Colombians for Peace can work together, what matters is the release of our loved ones.”
Former Colombian senator Cordoba, who was barred from holding political office in 2010 due to alleged ties to the FARC, has been a consistent campaigner for peace throughout her career and urged the government to heed the gesture from the rebels ahead of her own trip to Brazil to lay down the framework of the release operation.
The Colombian government has always included the release of the hostages and the abandoning of kidnapping as a necessary measure to initiate peace talks, however it has also demanded that the guerrilla group ceases “terrorist activity,” which could remain a stumbling block to negotiations.
The FARC have been fighting the Colombian government since 1964 and have been funded by drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. Over the past decade, the guerrilla group has been pushed away from Colombia’s major cities by Colombian security forces and right-wing paramilitary groups. However recent months have seen an increase in guerrilla activity, which some commentators have speculated is a show of force intended as a precursor to peace talks.