VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia – The last 10 security force members held by Colombia’s FARC rebels arrived on Monday after a handover in the jungle to a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Brazilian government provided the helicopter used in the humanitarian mission.
Jordi Raich, the ICRC’s delegate in Colombia, had announced earlier that contrary to the original plan, the FARC decided to free all 10 hostages on Monday.
The hostage release was supposed to take place in two phases, culminating on Wednesday.
Freed were soldiers Luis Alfonso Beltran Franco, Luis Arturo Arcia, Robinson Salcedo Guarin and Luis Alfredo Moreno Chagüeza, and police Carlos Jose Duarte, Cesar Augusto Lasso Monsalve, Jorge Trujillo Solarte, Jorge Humberto Romero, Jose Libardo Forero and Wilson Rojas Medina.
All 10 were captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in 1998 and 1999.
Monday’s handover took place in a rural area along the border of Meta and Guaviare provinces, ICRC spokesperson Maria Cristina Rivera said.
The operation was coordinated by the ICRC, the Colombian and Brazilian governments and the group Colombians for Peace, led by former Sen. Piedad Cordoba.
The FARC, Colombia’s largest insurgency, once held around 60 security force members and politicians, dubbed the “exchangeables,” who the guerrillas hoped to trade for hundreds of jailed rebels.
But the most valuable exchangeables, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, were rescued by the Colombian military in July 2008.
While never abandoning the demand for a prisoner swap, the FARC soon embarked on a series of unilateral releases of the remaining political captives.
Cordoba, who was ousted from her Senate seat for alleged “collusion” with the FARC, has been involved in each of the hostage releases.
The rebel group says it has abandoned kidnapping as a tactic. EFE