Saturday, June 30, 2007

FARC and Government blames each other for massacre

On June 30 , the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in the spanish acronym) informed the relatives of eleven politicians killed recently in the southwestern province of Narino, on the border with Ecuador, that they will hand over the corpses only if the Colombian Army ceases all military activity in that area. It seems that the eleven men were shot on June 28, and it is still not clear how it happened. FARC claims that the hostages were killed during crossfire between its members and a Colombian Army rescue team while the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has accused FARC of having killed the hostages.
"The hostages were murdered in cold blood, no rebels or soldiers were killed, and this proves that there was no crossfire," said Uribe during a television interview. Uribe added that he had never ordered the Army to carry out a rescue operation since there was no information about the exact location of the hostages retained by FARC. Uribe has requested an international commission to establish the real causes of the massacre and to recover the bodies of the dead politicians that were kidnapped by FARC in 2002.
On June 30 FARC informed the relatives of the dead hostages that they will hand over the corpses only if the army ceases all military activity in the area.
According to the Colombian press, there are four possible reasons why the hostages were killed:
1) Constant flyovers by Army helicopters and movements by navy ships could have made the members of FARC think a rescue operation was underway, forcing them to kill the hostages.
2) A shootout may have occurred between members of FARC and the ELN, another left wing group that plans to take control of that jungle area.
3) A group of armed drug traffickers known as the "Rastrojos" may have wandered near to the place where the hostages were detained causing a gun battle with the FARC rebels.
4) A right wing paramilitary group that is also operating in the area may have clashed with the FARC.
This incident occurs just as the Colombian government and FARC are negotiating an exchange of 57 politicians and military personnel for 500 FARC prisoners. Among the group captured by FARC is Ingrid Betancourt, a member of the Colombian parliament that has been hostage for the past five years. Since Betancourt has dual French and Colombian nationality, the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy has been acting as a mediator between President Uribe and FARC in order to secure the release of Betancourt and the other hostages. Recently Sarkozy convinced Uribe to free Rodrigo Granda, one of the main leaders of FARC, which was sent to Cuba. Also President Uribe has been in contact with President George Bush because there are three U.S. citizens among the group of 57 hostages that have been declared "negotiable" by FARC.

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