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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BOGOTA319 2009-02-02 22:52:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

FARC RELEASES ADDITIONAL HOSTAGES IN ATTEMPT TO

Tags:   PGOV PREL PREF PTER PHUM CO 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000319 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PTER PHUM CO
SUBJECT: FARC RELEASES ADDITIONAL HOSTAGES IN ATTEMPT TO
INFLUENCE 2010 ELECTIONS

Classified By: Political Counselor John Creamer
Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

SUMMARY
-------


1. (C) The FARC released four "political hostages," including
three police and one soldier, on February 1 to Colombian
Senator Piedad Cordoba and the ICRC. Brazil provided
logistical support, including two helicopters. The FARC's
last two civilian "political" hostages--former Meta Governor
Alan Jara and former Valle de Cauca Assemblyman Sigifredo
Lopez--are to be freed in coming days. Peace Commissioner
Restrepo told us the FARC's decision to free the six men is
an effort to strengthen Cordoba's "peace camp," relieve the
military pressure on the group, and undercut the GOC's
democratic security policy ahead of the 2010 presidential
elections. He expects Cordoba to use the releases to press
the GOC into humanitarian accord talks. Restrepo said the
GOC would accept peace talks if the FARC freed hostages and
halted violence, but added that the moment for a humanitarian
accord has passed, He said Uribe opposed an international
role in FARC talks beyond logistical help. End summary.

FARC RELEASES FOUR HOSTAGES TO ICRC


--------------------------




2. (U) The FARC released four hostages on February 1 to
representatives of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) and three members of "Colombians for Peace"
group, including Senator Piedad Cordoba. The four men freed,
three Police and one soldier, were part of the FARC's group
of "political hostages." The FARC took the four men--Walter
Lozano, Juan Galicia, Alexis Torres, and William
Giovani--hostage in separate incidents in 2007. Brazil
provided logistical support for the recovery operation,
including two Cougar helicopters and crews which operated
under ICRC markings. The men were recovered near Cartagena
de Chaira, Caqueta Department. Twenty-one political
hostages, all members of the police and military, will remain
in FARC custody once Jara and Lopez are released.

TWO MORE (POSSIBLY) TO FOLLOW


--------------------------




3. (U) Former Meta Governor Alan Jara and former Valle de
Cauca State Assemblyman Sigifredo Lopez are set to be
released in coming days, though the GOC announced it would
allow only the Brazilians, ICRC, and Cordoba to participate
in those releases. President Uribe met with the four freed
hostages at Narino Palace on February 2, and used a midnight
press conference with the men to slam the FARC for a bombing
in Cali that killed two on February 2. At that time, Uribe
also said he would not authorize Cordoba or journalist and
Colombians for Peace member Jorge Enrique Botero to
participate in additional releases. Botero called
Venezuelan-run media outlet Telesur during the operation and
claimed that the GOC had continued military operations during
the operation in an effort to torpedo the release.

4 (U) The Casa de Narino and Restrepo sharply rejected
Botero's claims, but the GOC issued a communique later on
February 2 authorizing Cordoba's renewed participation based
upon an ICRC request. The ICRC announced that the mission to
recover Jara, previously planned for February 2, would likely
be delayed to coordinate with the GOC on security.

FARC'S REAL INTENTION: INFLUENCE ELECTIONS


--------------------------




5. (C) Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo told us on
January 28 that the GOC anticipated that the FARC would
attempt to raise Cordoba's profile ahead of the 2010
presidential elections to strengthen the hand of the "peace
camp," relieve GOC military pressure on the group, and
undercut Uribe's democratic security policy. Restrepo said
FARC leader Alfonso Cano and Secretariat member Pablo
Catatumbo continued to rebuff efforts by the GOC authorized
messenger Henry Acosta to meet with them. The GOC has seen
no sign the FARC wants to engage in serious peace talks.
Restrepo said the GOC has been engaged in this same tactical
battle with the FARC for six years; this time at least, six
hostages, including the last two civilians, would be freed.



6. (C) Restrepo said Cordoba has made it clear that her next


step would be an attempt at talks leading to a "humanitarian
accord" and a possible peace process. The GOC believes the
political moment for a humanitarian accord has passed, and
believes the FARC wants to use humanitarian accord talks to
obtain "belligerent status." He said the GOC plans to
respond by urging the FARC to enter into peace talks
conditioned on: 1) the FARC's unilateral release of all
hostages, and 2) a FARC commitment (still undefined) to halt
violence. The GOC recognizes that it will face domestic
pressure to pursue humanitarian talks, but believes it can
withstand the demands. Restrepo added that the GOC is not
interested in talking peace with the FARC while the war
continues.



7. (C) Presidential Communications Director Jorge Mario
Eastman told us the GOC found it easier to manage the current
hostage release process promoted by Cordoba than it did the
earlier process with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He
said that neither Cordoba nor the FARC insisted on conditions
that the GOC could not accept. Still, he expects the release
to be a one-off event which will not lead to a humanitarian
accord or a broader peace process, noting that the increasing
focus on the 2010 presidential election would make the
already bleak prospects for progress on peace even smaller.

NO INTERNATIONAL ROLE IN FARC TALKS


--------------------------




8. (C) Restrepo said Uribe remained opposed to any
international role in talks with the FARC. The GOC rebuffed
Cordoba's initial suggestion that Venezuela handle the
logistics of the current round of hostage releases. The GOC
accepted Brazilian participation because the Brazilians made
clear they would only play a logistical, as opposed to
political, role. Restrepo said that neither the FARC nor
Cordoba pushed aggressively for an international guarantor in
the process. It was other members of Cordoba's group,
including Botero, that pushed for the Brazilians or U.S.
Congressmen McGovern to participate in a guarantor or witness
role. Restrepo said the GOC believes that the FARC sees no
interest in having Venezuela or Ecuador play a high-profile
role at this time, preferring instead to develop its
clandestine political ties in both countries.

BROWNFIELD