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Colombia: FARC Announces End to Kidnappings, Release of Hostages

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the largest and oldest guerilla group in Colombia, recently announced on February 26 [es], 2012, that they would release ten military hostages currently being held captive. The group had suspended a previously scheduled release of 6 hostages last year after denouncing ongoing military operations.

Through this announcement the FARC reported that they would renounce kidnapping as a financing means and emphasized their desire to stop the war which has been ongoing for 48 years. This news naturally has set off reactions among several citizen mediums, national and international.

And despite it only being several weeks since their announced desire to end the war, the FARC continues making news for its violence [es], having an armed protest strike in the department of Choco, where serious problems [es] springing from the conflict have been expressed on Twitter with the hashtag #EL_CHOCÓ_NECESITA_PAZ (Choco needs peace) [es]. In addition there continue to be reported various confrontations with the armed forces in Cauca and other regions of Colombia.

March against FARC, February 4, 2008. Photo by Juan David Medina (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

March against FARC, February 4, 2008. Photo by Juan David Medina (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In the meantime, preparations for the upcoming liberation of the ten hostages have been announced.

The website Colombia Soy Yo (I am Colombia), founded in 2008 by a group of civilians whose mission is “Constructing a Colombia without armed outlaw groups, pushing responsible, collective action based on human development,” have promoted campaigns like “Today is Your Day: Second Message Marathon for Reconciliation and Freedom,” [es] mentioning the FARC communication and repeat their petition [es] for the liberation of six hostages.

They conclude with this emphatic statement:

Junto a las Voces del Secuestro y otras organizaciones aliadas, seguiremos insistiendo y estamos dispuestos incluso, a ir hasta lo más profundo de la selva, para traerlos de regreso con sus familias

Together with the Voices of the Kidnapped and other allied organized we will continue pushing for this and we're even prepared to go to the darkest depths of the jungle to bring the kidnapped back to their families.

In the blog Atrabilioso [es], the columnist Jorge Monroy believes that past kidnappings are still crimes that should be judged:

¿es posible creerles a las FARC? No importa, lo único que hay que hacer es aplicar las leyes y llevarlos ante la justicia

Is it possible to believe the FARC? It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that the laws be enforced and the kidnappers brought before justice.

At the website Silla Vacía (Empty Chair), Juanita León and Dora Carvajal make an analysis [es] of the current state of the FARC and conclude with a discouraging vision for peace in Colombia:

En este complejo escenario del conflicto, se abre con el anuncio de las Farc de proscribir el secuestro una pequeña ventana para ir aminorando el sufrimiento de los civiles víctimas de esta guerra. Pero el fin de la guerra aún está lejos.

In this complex scenario, a small window of hope can be seen with the FARC's announcement to ban kidnapping, reducing the suffering for civilian victims of the war. But the end of the war remains far off.

On the blog Quartely Américas, Jenny Manrique opens with the question “Will all hostages go free?” and ends her post saying [es]:

Mucho se ha hablado acerca de las retenciones de personas, hombres o mujeres de la población civil, que con fines financieros efectuamos las FARC a objeto de sostener nuestra lucha. Con la misma voluntad indicada arriba es un buen momento para mirar la complejidad del secuestro y a las víctimas en su totalidad. Un país que jerarquiza a sus víctimas, también se acostumbra a olvidarlas.

A lot has been said about holding people, civilian men or women, hostage as a means of financing FARC and their fight. With the same intention as expressed above, it is a good moment to look at the complexity of kidnappings and their victims. A country that ranks its victims is also accustomed to forgetting them.

The historian Medófilo Medina (founding member of the blog Razón Pública [es]) made a video analysis on YouTube and indicates this is a opportune moment for the government to make a lasting peace:

On Twitter, some like Cavib77 (@cavib77) [es] and Diana Urrutia H (@DiiuUrrutia) [es] are taking the news with hope for the future:

De corazón espero q las FARC cumplan su anuncio de no más SECUESTROS y se de la pronta liberación de todos los secuestrados militares o civiles.

From the bottom of my heart I hope that the FARC fulfill their announcement of no more kidnappings and quickly release all of the hostages, military or civilian.

Buenos días, leyendo el anuncio de las Farc, se incrementa mi esperanza en el fin de la violencia que ha golpeado tanto a Colombia

Good morning, reading the announcement from FARC and my hope has increased that the violence which has struck Colombia will end

Meanwhile others are incredulous and critical of  the FARC's announcement, such as Andrés Gutiérrez (@andresmgs) [es] and Charles Figueroa (@CharlesFiguero) [es]:

Las FARC dicen que “no habrá mas secuestros” y como muestra de sus intenciones de paz bombardean Cauca, peor aun hay payasos que les creen!!

The FARC says “There will be no more kidnappings” and then show their peaceful intentions by bombing Cauca, you're worse than a fool if you believe them!

¿Qué estará tramando las FARC con su sorpresivo anuncio de paz y reconciliación?

What is the FARC up to with this surprise peace and reconciliation announcement?

Sergio Rodríguez V. (@Sergi_Rodriguez) [es] started a call for the end, demanding commitment from the FARC:

Ya son 14 años secuestrado por las FARC… No mas secuestro… #LiberenlosYA

Now we've lived through 14 years of FARC kidnappings… No more kidnappings… #LiberenlosYA (FreeThemNOW)

Juanito Alimaña (@CuadroAlfonso) [es] for her part criticized what happened in Choco and accused the FARC of holding hostage not persons but regions of the country:

 Las FARC anunciaron que dejarán la práctica del secuestro de personas y dieron paso al secuestro de departamentos enteros.

The FARC announced they will stop their practice of kidnapping people and will instead kidnap whole departments.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) [es], one of the first to spread the news, reacted to it on Twitter this way:

Valoramos el anuncio de las FARC de renunciar al secuestro como un paso importante y necesario pero no suficiente en la dirección correcta

We value the FARC's announcement of giving up kidnapping as an important and necessary though insufficient step in the right direction.

Finally analysts on the blog Razón Pública provided a positive vision for peace [es]:

Tanto el gobierno como las FARC han dado pasos importantes. El reto es definir la hoja de ruta hacia la paz. Colombia puede inspirarse en sus procesos anteriores, en la experiencia de numerosos países y en el nuevo escenario mundial. La negociación entre gobierno e insurgencia será imprescindible, pero hay tareas básicas más allá de la mesa de los diálogos. De hecho el proceso de paz ya está en marcha

Both the government and the FARC have made important steps. The challenge is now defining the roadmap to peace. Here Colombia can be inspired by previous processes, the experience of numerous other countries and the new world stage. The negotiation between the government and the insurgency will be unprecedented but there are basic tasks beyond the negotiating table. This means the peace process is now on its way.

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