Colombian leftist rebels freed a former governor held hostage for more than seven years.
“I’m free!” declared Mr. Jara after he reunited with his wife and now-teenage son at the Villavicencio airport. Jara, who had been kidnapped by FARC rebels in 2001, was the fifth hostage released over the past few months by the FARC.
Mr. Jara was released two days after the FARC guerrillas released three police officers and a soldier who were abducted more than one year ago. The FARC was expected to free another hostage, Sigifredo Lopez, before press time.
Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba, who maintains close ties with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan government, was instrumental in the release of the latest group of hostages.
The rebels have been holding hundreds of people in jungle hideouts for ransom or political leverage. Camilo González, an analyst with the Indepaz peace studies group, told the Christian Science Monitor that the rebels’ decision to do this is part of a FARC effort to regain political relevance: “It is the FARC’s way of trying to recover some political initiative after a disastrous year,” he said. Another political analyst, Gérson Arias, disagreed slightly: “They may have finally realized that it is politically counterproductive to hold civilians,” Mr. González told the Monitor. He argues that the FARC strategy, meant to be a bargaining tool to persuade the Colombian government to release rebel fighters from prison has “lost relevance.”
“You cannot change the country through kidnapping” Jara said at a press conference shortly after his release, although he emphasized that the government must negotiate with the FARC in order to see political gains with the rebel group. He called it “the only solution.”
Robert Wood, acting spokesman for Public Affairs in the U.S. State Department: “We welcome the release of four long-held hostages, three policemen and one soldier, and call on the FARC to immediately release all remaining hostages. There is no justification for the FARC’s continued victimization of innocent people.”
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