Rebels deny money factor behind Betancourt’s release

July 14th, 2008 - 11:35 am ICT by IANS  

Bogota, July 14 (IANS) Two leftist guerrillas captured by the Colombian troops during their dramatic rescue operation earlier this month have denied charges that they have betrayed their group and taken money to allow the operation to succeed, EFE news agency reported Monday. In an “epic” operation, the Colombian Army infiltrated the ranks of the country’s fiercest leftist rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 14 others without blood-letting or a bullet fired.

Attorney Rodolfo Rios, who represents the two detained FARC rebels, told the Noticias Uno television news show Sunday that his clients were willing, if allowed, to prove “to the world” and the FARC that they did not betray the guerrilla group.

Last week, the FARC said the July 2 liberation of the hostages was not a rescue, but an escape abetted by the two guerrilla commanders - Gerardo Antonio Aguilar, alias Cesar, and Alexander Farfan Suarez, known as Enrique Gafas - who were in charge of the captives.

“The escape of the 15 prisoners of war was the direct consequence of the despicable conduct of ‘Cesar’ and ‘Enrique’, who betrayed their revolutionary commitment and the confidence placed in them,” the FARC said in a communique posted Friday on the Web page of Venezuela’s official ABP news agency.

The statement was the first official reaction from the FARC to the Colombian military operation to rescue former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three US military contractors and 11 security personnel.

The attorney, for his part, said his clients did not receive any money and the rescue operation succeeded because Colombian military intelligence managed to intercept rebel communications.

The Colombian government says Cesar and Enrique Gafas were tricked into handing over 15 of the 40 high-value hostages the FARC has been trying to trade for jailed rebels and that no money changed hands to effect the release.

In their statement, FARC also said it was still willing to negotiate a prisoners swap with the government of President Alvaro Uribe.

“We maintain in effect our policy of realizing humanitarian accords that achieve the exchange and, moreover, protect the civilian population from the effects of the conflict,” the FARC said.

The rebels, however, added that if the government persisted in attempts to rescue hostages, “it must assume all the consequence of its rash and adventurist decision”.

The FARC’s policy is to kill captives in the event of an attempt by Colombian security forces to rescue them, the rebels threatened.

Meanwhile, the US has asked Colombia to extradite Cesar and Enrique for trial over their crimes related to terrorism and taking Americans hostage.

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