The Colombian government on Friday ordered the military to extend the suspension of activity in an area in the southwest of the country. The extension was necessary after a failed attempt to release the first two of three FARC hostages allegedly due to interference from media.
The temporary unilateral ceasefire in one of the FARC’s strongholds was supposed to end 6AM Friday, but will be extended until midnight to allow the humanitarian aid organization Red Cross and peace activist group Colombians for peace to try again to retrieve two policemen thhe FARC promised to release.
According to the Red Cross, “a swarm” of reporters impeded the humanitarian mission to reach the location where the rebels were to surrender the policemen who were captured earlier this month while on duty in the south of the Valle del Cauca department.
The police, army and air force had suspended all activity on Wednesday 6PM to grant the Red Cross and Colombians for Peace the possibility to travel through one of Colombia’s most hard-fought areas only miles from Cali.
In an early-morning Tweet, Colombia’s Ministry of Defense announced the 18-hour extension.
Gobierno amplia suspensión de operaciones militares hasta las 12pm del viernes 15 de febrero para que liberen uniformados: @mindefensa
— Mindefensa Colombia (@mindefensa) February 15, 2013
Thursday’s failed attempt to recover the policemen led to agitation between the release operation, the government and among reporters.
According to both the Red Cross and the leader of Colombians for Peace, reporters would not allow the safe passage of the convoy on its way to the hostage release location. At the same time, Colombian journalists accused foreign journalists of receiving preferential treatment while President Juan Manuel Santos blamed the FARC for the “unacceptable” delay.
The FARC captured the policemen while investigating extortion charges in the southwestern Valle del Cauca department late last month. A soldier was taken by rebels during combat in the southwestern Nariño department.
The rebels banned kidnapping for economical and political reason in February last year. It has since held “prisoners of war” but these were released within weeks after their kidnapping, apparently without ransom.
The rebel group has been involved in formal peace talks with the Santos administration since late last year. Both parties have expressed their desire to end the armed conflict between rebels and state that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions over the past decades.