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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Colombia Support Network Statement on Break in Efforts at Hostage/Prisoner Exchange

December 5, 2007

           The Colombia Support Network (CSN) has received word of President Uirbe’s termination of mediation efforts by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba with frustration and sadness.  There is no question that a majority of the Colombian people, as well as human rights organizations around the globe, are distressed to see the efforts to achieve the release of hostages and prisoners come to naught.  We believe that Senator Cordoba as facilitator and President Chavez as mediator had taken important steps toward achieving the release of FARC hostages, in spite of some questionable public posturing, and we are sorry to see their efforts end.  There is substantial evidence to suggest that neither the FARC nor President Uribe wished to achieve an exchange of hostages and prisoners without demanding of the other side concessions it was not prepared to accept.  Thus the FARC demanded a demilitarized zone in Colombian territory which the Uribe Administration had no intention of approving, while the Uribe Administration refused to recognize the FARC as a legitimate revolutionary force with which discussions leading to a possible peace agreement could be undertaken.

           CSN has always opposed kidnapping as wrong, an inhumane breach of basic human values, whether it be for money or as a political bargaining chip.  The FARC bear responsibility for creating a hostage crisis, and for severe and unjustifiable violations of international humanitarian law and of the basic human rights of their captives.  The recent revelations of the wretched conditions in which they have kept the hostages and their prisoners lead us to renew our demand as conscientious human beings that they release these captives and renounce kidnapping as a tactic once and for all.

           A recent CSN sister community delegation from the United States has the privilege of meeting with Yolanda Pulecio, the mother of Ingrid Betancourt, whose poor treatment since being kidnapped by the FARC as she campaigned for President more than 5 years ago has shocked the world.  We have also been fortunate to have been in touch with Jo Rosano, mother of U.S. citizen Marc Gonsalves, whom the FARC have held since the plane in which he and other U.S. contract workers were traveling crashed in territory controlled by the FARC in 2003. We greatly admire the tremendous courage and commitment of these two extraordinary women.  But it is past time for their children, Ingrid and Marc, and the other FARC hostages, to return home safe and sound and end the nightmare their families have lived for years.

           We call upon President Uribe to renew the negotiations for their prisoner exchange by agreeing to further efforts at mediation of this issue with the FARC.  And we call upon the FARC to respond reasonably to the initiatives to obtain agreement for a prisoner exchange.  There are historical precedents for such exchanges.  And such an exchange could lead to productive efforts to achieve a lasting peace.  There should be no unreasonable preconditions on either side, but rather a true commitment to reaching an agreement which will allow Ingrid, Marc and the others to return safely to their homes and loved ones.  And we pledge to do whatever we may to help achieve this goal as soon as possible.

                                                           John I. Laun, President of CSN, on behalf of
                                                            the CSN Board of Directors and membership



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