Soldiers and policemen kidnapped by rebel groups made the dramatic appeal shortly after 11 hostages were killed during a shootout.
Seven hostages held by Colombia’s largest rebel group made a dramatic appeal to President Alvaro Uribe in a video released on Tuesday to stop trying to rescue them by force. The group of soldiers and policemen under captivity somewhere in the country’s Andean jungles, also asked the government to win their release through fair negotiations with their guerrilla captors.
The videotape was handed to TV news station Al Jazeera and prove the hostages are still alive and in good health condition. The appeal comes less than a week after eleven lawmakers held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or FARC) were killed during a shootout between insurgents and an unconfirmed military squad.
The images show corporal Pablo Emilio Moncayo pleading Uribe for a peaceful solution by negotiating with the FARC. Then, policeman William Dominguez Castro said that the military operations and bombing put their lives in danger.
In the video, one of the hostages said he had recently been at a jungle camp with Betancourt. France is pushing for President Uribe and the guerrillas to reach an agreement for her release. "I have found myself in a camp with other prisoners of war, with hostage politicians, like Ingrid, Mrs. Clara and a boy who is always with them," said William Dominguez, a military officer.
He was referring to Ingrid Betancourt and her assistant, Clara Rojas, who were kidnapped by the FARC in 2002 while the Colombian-French politician Betancourt campaigned for the presidency. Rojas had a child, Emmanuel, in captivity about three years ago.
After the death of the 11 deputies, retained by FARC since April 2002, demands have increased for the government to negotiate with the FARC to achieve the prisoners exchange. Nevertheless, president Uribe maintained his position of freeing them by force.
In declarations to the local press, Uribe invited Colombians “to claim for the release of the hostages”, and commented that “in case of military actions to free foreign hostages, he would anticipate the move to the governments of France and the US”.
“The FARC want a free area to negotiate the situation of the hostages. We are not going to accept that condition”, said the President, as asked his followers to participate in a demonstration scheduled for Thursday against kidnappings.
“Is time to be strong and do not surrender to FARC. These criminals only understand the language of strength”, said Uribe, who, as per his remarks is not planning to attend to hostages’ appeals.