Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

The FARC’s farce

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on February 21, 2011

by S.B. for The Economist – Americas View, February 19th, 2011.

Anyone who thought that the latest round of hostage releases in Colombia could lead to something more, such as peace talks, had a rude awakening this week. On February 16th, the FARC guerrillas freed Guillermo Solorzano, a police officer, and Salin Sanmiguel, a soldier—the last two of the six hostages they had announced they would let go this month. Four others were released last week. Nonetheless, a series of mishaps along the way led Juan Manuel Santos, the president, to call the plan a “farce” and declare that the “door to peace is shut”.

Mr Santos was irked when one of the first hostages to be released, a councilman named Armando Acuña, came out of his seven-year captivity in a spanking new suit and tie, courtesy of the FARC. The president grew even angrier to learn that at the same time the release operations were going on in one part of the country, the FARC kidnapped two men in another. “It is totally unacceptable that the FARC on one hand is releasing hostages as an act of generosity and on the other is kidnapping more people,” he said Thursday.

Subsequently, the first attempt to pick up Mr Solorazano and Mr Sanmiguel came up empty-handed and confused. Brazilian helicopters carrying Piedad Cordoba, a former senator who has acted as facilitator for the releases, and International Red Cross officials arrived at the agreed pickup point in Tolima province at the appointed time. However, there were no hostages to be seen.

The government felt duped. As with previous unilateral releases, the government had agreed to suspend military operations in the handover areas to facilitate the humanitarian mission. Tolima, historically a rebel stronghold, is where Alfonso Cano, the FARC’s leader, maintains his headquarters. Some sceptics had warned that the alleged handover hoax may have been used to move guerrilla troops or weapons in the region during the 36-hour freeze in military operations. But in an uncharacteristically quick communiqué, the FARC denied giving the mission a false location. Sources close to Ms Cordoba said the problem lay in interpreting the coordinates. (continue reading… )



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