According to Swiss negotiator Jean Pierre Gontard, Uribe allowed him to visit the FARC on three occasions as part of efforts to have members of the security forces released.
However, “the parties wanted something more important than the release of the hostages,” Gontard told the website of weekly Semana. “They wanted a serious negotiation regarding a peace deal.”
The Swiss diplomat, who was later accused by the Uribe administration of having ties to the FARC, said slain FARC commander “Alfonso Cano” was “who wanted peace the most.”
According to Gontard, the former president ordered the armed forces to cease hostile operations against the country’s largest rebel group on three occasions to allow the negotiator safe passage to camps of FARC leaders.
These negotiations were kept secret, except for the Red Cross which offered logistical aid, said Gontard.
The Swiss negotiator’s statements confirm cables published by WikiLeaks in which U.S. embassy officials reported to Washington that the Uribe administration was seeking rapprochement with the guerrilla organization in order to seek an end to the armed conflict.
Uribe — a fierce critic of ongoing peace talks with the FARC — led most of the Colombian state’s successful offensive against the FARC during his eight-year presidency between 2002 and 2010. He has opposed talks spearheaded by his successor, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, and recently criticized the ceasing of hostilities to allow prominent FARC commanders taking part in the negotiations that are held in Cuba.