While the upcoming release of five FARC political hostages has been widely publicized, the more than 200 civilian victims of kidnapping in 2010 have been “forgotten,” says Pais Libre, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting victims of kidnapping and their families.
“We think that those kidnapped for economic extortion are forgotten. There is a perception that kidnapping for economic extortion has ended. That is not true. Actually it increased 32% in 2010,” Claudia Llano, a representative of Pais Libre, told Colombia Reports.
Out of the 282 reported kidnappings last year, 57% are attributed to common criminals, 23% to the FARC, 12% to the ELN and the remaining 7% to neo-paramilitary groups, according to a report published by the organization last week.
The highly publicized upcoming release of five of the FARC’s political hostages, set for later this week, has raised hope that the guerrillas may release all 19 political prisoners and, some anticipate, pave the way for peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebel group.
“We should not forget that the FARC always continues to kidnap for extortion. These [economic] hostages do not have the same level of impact, to the extent that it would drive communication between the government and the illegal actor,” Llano said.
Pais Libre believes that before peace talks are opened with the FARC, the guerrillas should be required to release all hostages, both political and those held to extort money, and give information about those hostages whose whereabouts remain unknown.
“The importance is not only those who have political lives, or those who have economic lives; it’s the whole universe of the hostages who have been a statistic of the state since 1996, and have never returned to their families. If they were assassinated or died in captivity, their families have a right to know,” Llano said.
Pais Libre has counted 1,060 FARC hostages taken since 1996, the whereabouts of most of whom are unknown.
Former Senator Piedad Cordoba, who is organizing the release of the five hostages, said Sunday she is confident that the FARC will release all political hostages by the second half of this year.