US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said Sunday that he will be traveling to Colombia again this week to take part in a humanitarian mission that seeks the release of a former US marine held hostage by rebel group FARC for three months.
The South American country’s largest guerrilla group on Saturday asked Jackson to take part in the mission during the Afro-American leader’s visit to FARC representatives in Havana, Cuba, where the rebels and government are negotiating a deal to end almost 50 years of armed conflict.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos immediately rejected Jackson’s proposed involvement and stressed on Twitter that he will only allow delegates of humanitarian organization the Red Cross while trying to avoid the FARC uses the release of their only known foreign hostage to stage a “media show.”
Solamente Cruz Roja será autorizada para facilitar entrega de norteamericano secuestrado por las FARC. No permitiremos espectáculo mediático
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) September 28, 2013
Jackson showed not impressed by Santos’ rejection and told press on Sunday that he hopes Santos “can evaluate the importance of retrieving an American veteran,” adding that he still intended to go to Colombia in a matter of days to retrieve war veteran Kevin Scott Sutay who was captured on suspicion of spying in FARC-controlled territory in southern Colombia in June.
The civil rights activist said the marine’s release would draw media attention with or without his mediation.
Also the FARC insisted on the participation of Jackson and communist journalist Carlos Lozano, and said that Sutay “is now on the road to freedom. So it would be a shame for a lack of clear thinking to stop Reverend Jackson from leading the mission to get him,” a statement warned.
Jackson confirmed the marine is “free to leave,” but can’t go home because of ongoing fighting in the area where ‘Sutay is kept.
“They can have a cease-fire zone for a day to let us bring Kevin out,” Jackson said. “They can have a cease-fire for two days.”
The Red Cross told the Associated Press that it is ready to begin the operation to retrieve Sutay but are waiting for the government to come to an agreement about the specifics of the operation.
“We are prepared to begin logistical work, but only once all sides agree on the details of the release,” spokeswoman Erika Tovar told the US news agency.
Sutay’s captivity was announced by the FARC in July, allegedly a month after his capture.
“They at first thought he was a terrorist or a spy, but they later found that was not the case,” Jackson said in Cuba. “They wanted to release him to our custody if we would come to Cuba meet with them to hear the whole story.”
The FARC, engaged in peace talks since November last year, banned kidnapping early last year, but have continued to take “prisoners of war.”