Families of Colombians who have been kidnapped by the FARC on Thursday reacted furiously on statements by the guerrilla group that it holds no more hostages.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, nearly 400 families with missing loved ones from the past ten years cried out that if the FARC were not going to be sincere about their kidnappings, the expectation of a negotiation of peace would disappear.
The outrage occurred in Colombia after a press conference in the Cuban capital Havana, held to reveal the names of the guerrilla members who were to represent the FARC during peace negotiations with the government, when the country’s largest guerrilla group claimed that they no longer retain any hostages.
During the press conference, the political representative of the FARC Mauricio Jaramillo, said that the group had been ordered by the late supreme leader “Alfonso Cano” to cease all kidnappings and leave their “retained” free, to which reporters insisted on receiving continued complaints that the rebels still have hostages under their control, reported Caracol Radio.
Rodrigo Granda, the named chancellor of the FARC, said that “in Colombia there are kidnappings by the organs of security, the paramilitaries, the common criminal, and they all accuse the FARC of committing these acts.”
“In one moment it was said that we had 2,900 hostages. A sweep was taken block by block, front by front, and the accusations came out to be false that we were responsible,” Granda added. Within minutes, the Bolivar Plaza in Colombia’s capital Bogota filled with families of hostages that rejected the message.
The families of the civilian hostages that are still in captivity assured that the peace process would fail if the FARC started with lies such as saying that they don’t have any retained hostages. Rafael Mora, president of the Association “The missing,” said that the process would be starting poorly.
“If when the process of peace starts they don’t begin with the truth, it is a poor start. When they deny having in their control hostages it could mean several things: that they are ignoring their commanders, that they have hostages and they are denying it, or that the acts were done by a group trying to pass for the FARC,” said Mora.
The association’s president considers it necessary to include at least one representative of the victims in the tables of dialogue that could negotiate above all the clarification of the truth and the liberation of the hostages that remain in captivity.
Pais Libre, an NGO foundation that defends the rights of former hostages, reported that just this year — the same time which supreme FARC leader “Timochenko” announced the group would not continue kidnapping — at least ten cases have been attributed to the guerrilla group.
Clara Rojas, an ex-hostage of the FARC and current director of Pais Libre, said that the FARC’s announcement was “painful and discouraging.”
“I ask the FARC to reconsider and begin to tune into the pain of the people,” said Rojas.
Silvia Serna, mother of student Edson Eduardo Paez that has already been held hostage for one year, said that in February she met with the commander of the FARC’s 26th Front, who not only confirmed that he had her son, but asked for another $165k for his freedom.
“I interviewed with the “Zarco;” I went with the firm conviction that we had already paid and that they were going to free him. He told me that he had received the near $111k already but that he needed more,” said Serna according to newspaper El Tiempo.
“There is a reality that they can’t deny” said Rojas, voice of the ex-kidnapped, ”Colombia knows that the FARC have hostages, we know that they are blackmailing their families. To negate this situation is difficult and painful. I say to the FARC to reconsider this situation, there are families that have met with commanders, they ask the FARC to begin to tune in to the pain of the people.”
Though Pais Libre is giving the guerrilla group the benefit of the doubt before coming to rash conclusions, they consider it necessary to take figures from the beginning and figure out how many kidnappings there have been, how many from the FARC, and how many remain missing.
“We will wait to see the position that the president takes. If the moment arrives that the FARC say they don’t have anybody and the government says that they don’t have missing people, then the victims get stuck between the sword and the wall,” said the foundation.
According to Pais Libre, “the various lessons to be learned are that either the commanders are not telling the truth, or the common criminal is acting in the name of the FARC. However it appears that this was a negotiating strategy.”
The FARC and the government have been holding secret “exploratory” talks in Cuba over the past six months. The two warring parties have agreed to now enter a second phase of the peace negotiations, to be held in Norway in October and continue after in the Cuban capital Havana. They hope to conclude with the signing of a peace accord ending Colombia’s 48-year-old armed conflict.