FARC hostage release: Peace agreement ahead in Colombia?

10 police and military hostages of the FARC were released yesterday, some seeing their family for the first time in 14 years. Though a positive sign, this may not mean immediate peace in Colombia.

Fernando Vergara/AP
Former hostage army sergeant Luis Alfredo Moreno, second from right, waves a Colombian flag upon his arrival at the airport after being released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Villavicencio, Colombia, Monday. At left, is an unidentified former hostage.

For mothers and sons, husbands and wives, and young children and their fathers – including one teenager who has not seen his father since he was four years old – the release of 10 hostages by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Monday has brought a sense of jubilation to Colombia.

"I shouted! I jumped up and down!" said one mother, Olivia Solarte, to the Associated Press, upon hearing that her son, one of six police officers and four soldiers – the last remaining “security” hostages held by the FARC for more than a decade – was set free Monday.

But the sense of joy felt by individual families might not translate into a national sigh of relief, for a nation that has suffered decades as the home base for the region's oldest and most dangerous guerrilla group.

As our correspondent Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogota writes, the move, which was announced in February along with the promise by the FARC to end kidnappings of civilians for ransom, does not mean that prospects for peace are clear.

Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue, said there was a “measure of wishful thinking” among those who see this as a first step toward peace talks, adding that there is still a “long way to go” before the FARC and the government are ready to sit down at opposite sides of a negotiations table.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos seemed to capture that cautious optimism as the hostages were released, calling it "a step in the right direction, a very important step" but underlining that peace dialogues were not imminent. He said first the government needs proof that the FARC is serious about ending kidnappings as a source of revenue stream.

There are no reliable figures on how many civilian hostages remain. And this is not the first time the government and the FARC have set out on a road to peace. The last attempt collapsed in 2002, after the FARC hijacked a domestic passenger flight.

“The FARC is trying to enhance [its] legitimacy but they are doing it from a weakened position,” says Mr. Shifter. “The government is being extremely careful in not giving in to the enormous temptation to pursue peace because of the skepticism in the ruling coalition.” 

“It’s a dance we see a lot of in Colombia,” says Shifter.

Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to FARC hostage release: Peace agreement ahead in Colombia?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today