Rebel’s death raises doubts on Colombian hostage exchangeMarch 5th, 2008 - 9:37 am ICT by admin
Buenos Aires, March 5 (DPA) The Colombian conflict has developed into a loud regional diplomatic crisis following the weekend killing of rebel leader Raul Reyes by Colombian forces on Ecuadorian territory. However, for all the talking, this atmosphere of tension is bound to have the greatest impact on a group of people whose voices cannot be heard: more than 700 hostages held by the leftist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the most prominent among them Ingrid Betancourt.
“Immediately, (the death of Reyes) can only complicate communication with FARC. Can Ingrid Betancourt, who is apparently on the verge of death, and her companions in misfortune stand the situation any longer?” the French daily Le Monde asked Monday.
Raul Reyes was not only FARC’s number two, but also the rebel group’s spokesman, and a man with abundant experience in talks with representatives of the international community.
“Reyes was the man with the contacts with the press and with the international community,” Le Monde added.
The French daily is quick to note that FARC’s number two “was not considered soft,” and that his successor could be more inclined to concessions towards a humanitarian agreement. But that successor will first have to be presented and consolidated, if not found.
“It will not be easy for the guerrillas to project another one of its bosses as a representative before foreign countries,” the Colombian weekly El Espectador noted.
FARC hostages - some of whom have been held for over 10 years - may by now be accustomed to waiting. But in their case, time means at best inhumane treatment in the Colombian jungle, and at worst death from illness or in combat.
Reyes was FARC’s highest-ranking negotiator in peace talks with the government of former Colombian president Andres Pastrana (1998- 2002), and travelled to several European countries with Colombian authorities at the time.
He had high-level contacts with Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - who had brokered the releases of six hostages in the past two months - and, Colombia authorities claimed, with representatives of the Ecuadorian government.
He had dealt with envoys from France and Switzerland seeking to bring on the liberation of former Colombian presidential candidate Betancourt, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship.
There is no doubt that Reyes was a well-established negotiator.
However, he was also the second-in-command of an insurgent group that has fought the Colombian state for some 40 years, killing thousands of people with a wide variety of means as indiscriminate as anti-personnel landmines.
In an editorial Monday, the Colombian daily El Tiempo described the rebel leader’s death as “a fact that was received by the immense majority of Colombians as a legitimate - and unprecedented - point scored by the state in the long confrontation with FARC”.
The daily further called the diplomatic outrage at the operation itself “unheard-of and paradoxical”.
Indeed, for many in Colombia, getting closer to the end of the country’s internal conflict - which El Tiempo recalled has caused great pain to hundreds of thousands of people - is a priority above securing the release of a few scores of FARC hostages.
El Espectador defined Reyes’ death as “a blow to the heart of FARC” and stressed the opinion that with it brought down “the myth that members of the FARC leadership were invulnerable or that they died of old age”.
From Colombia’s perspective in this dangerous game of South American political poker, the undoubtedly strong blow dealt to FARC with the killing of one of its top leaders beats the undoubtedly strong blow dealt to the chances of a hostage release.
For Colombia, national security is being weighed against the human tragedy of a few. For a majority of Colombians - who twice elected Uribe as president without need for a runoff, on a platform based on defeating the guerrillas militarily, without concessions - the choice is clear, and it does not favour the hostages for all their evident suffering.
- Colombia's FARC frees 10 captives - Apr 03, 2012
- Colombian guerrilla who guarded Betancourt surrenders - Sep 15, 2009
- Colombian rebels say they are holding French reporter - May 07, 2012
- Colombia's FARC number 2 rebel commander "Mono Jojoy" killed - Sep 24, 2010
- Ten FARC members killed in army operation in southwestern Colombia - Mar 25, 2011
- Colombian boy walks 70 km to seek father's release - Jul 04, 2010
- Female Colombian snipers defending Gaddafi in Libya - Apr 15, 2011
- Top Colombian rebel commander killed - Nov 05, 2011
- Colombian rebels say they're holding French reporter - May 02, 2012
- No grudges at talks with Colombian government: FARC - Sep 04, 2012
- Colombia extradites captured rebel, 9 others to US - Sep 20, 2009
- Guerrillas use dead body in attack in Colombia - Dec 08, 2011
- 22 rebels killed in Colombia - Sep 20, 2010
- Colombian rebels to release long-held captive - Apr 17, 2009
- Ecuador, Colombia to restore ties - Nov 14, 2009
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