The United Nations on Thursday rejected demands by dissidents FARC guerrillas and reiterated its call to immediately release the UN employee held hostage since last week.
In a press release, the United Nations’ Mission in Colombia said that “following the principles of human rights, and national and international law, the UN requests his immediate and unconditional release.”
The Colombian employee of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was kidnapped last week, allegedly by the 1st Front, a former FARC front that has refused to take part in a peace process agreed with the guerrilla organization in November last year.
Our colleague is a father, a son and a husband, and our priority will continue to be his well-being and that of his family, as well as his safe and immediate return to the side of his loved ones.
United Nations Mission in Colombia
Earlier on Thursday, local media released a three-page letter signed by the 1st Front in which they demanded “guarantees on behalf of the Colombian government and that a development plan is carried out that solves the social and economic issues of farmers and coca growers.”
Paradoxically, Arley Lopez was kidnapped after a meeting with coca growers exactly to explain rural development and coca crop substitution plans rolled out by the government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as part of a peace process with the FARC.
Since then, locals and UN workers have been looking for the kidnapped UNODC official in the jungles of of the southern Guaviare province without the help of Colombia’s security forces.
The UN said that, in spite of the kidnapping, it “is determined to continue supporting Colombians, their government and their efforts to construct a sustainable peace in the country.”
The multinational organization has hundreds of employees in Colombia, either to monitor the compliance of both the government and the FARC to the peace deal signed in November last year and to assist the government in the execution of the substitution of coca crops.
The 1st Front, one of the FARC’s traditional “mother fronts,” announced its rejection of the peace process to end 52 years of guerrilla warfare in July last year, two months before Santos and the FARC signed the first draft of the historic peace deal that was ultimately approved by Congress in November.
However, the guerrillas of the 1st Front are in disagreement with concessions made by the FARC leadership in order to come to an agreement.
According to the hard-line dissidents “the Colombian state and its allies only seek the disarmament and the demobilization of the guerrillas … They want to continue governing with the same economic model” the national FARC organization seeks to fight without arms and from Congress.
While not presented as a condition for the release of Lopez, the 1st Front asked the UN “to contribute to the release of comrade ‘Simon Trinidad’ who is held prisoner in prisons (sic} in the United States.”