IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Uribe changes tack on release of rebels' hostages

President Alvaro Uribe's government said Saturday it is dropping a demand that Colombia's main rebel group release all its police and military hostages at once, possibly opening the way for negotiations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Alvaro Uribe's government said Saturday it is dropping a demand that Colombia's main rebel group release all its police and military hostages at once, possibly opening the way for negotiations.

Colombia's peace commissioner, Frank Pearl, said relatives of the hostages had met with Uribe and asked him to help secure their loved ones' freedom.

"The national government has accepted the family members' petition," Pearl said, reading from a brief statement.

Uribe said in a speech that he accepted the family members' request for "solidarity" despite concerns that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, could use individual releases for political bargaining.

He added that the government would ask the International Red Cross and the Roman Catholic Church to "obtain a guarantee from the FARC for the release of the entire group." The rebels hold at least 24 police and military personnel in jungle hideouts.

Earlier this year, the FARC had announced it would free army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, who has been held for more than a decade, and another soldier, Josue Daniel Calvo Nunez, who was captured in April.

Gustavo Moncayo, Nunez's father, told The Associated Press that his wife and mothers of other hostages asked Uribe to help free the men, saying they were "tired of so many tears."

Opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who received authorization from the government in July to help seek the hostages' release, called the decision "a relief for many people."

"It has opened a very big door," she said.