General is set free, along with two other hostages
Brigadier General Alzate, The highest ranking military officer ever to have been captured by the leftist FARC guerrillas, was released on Sunday November 30 after being captured two weeks ago, spurring hope that the 2-year-old peace talks can be salvaged.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced via Twitter that Brigadier General Ruben Dario Alzate, along with two others captured with him – human rights lawyer Gloria Urrego and Corporal Jorge Rodriguez – were freed on Sunday morning just before 9am.
They were being held in the department of Choco, a coastal region in western Colombia.
“Alzate, lawyer Urrego and Corporal Rodriguez freed in perfect condition and awaiting the right weather conditions for the return to their families,” Santos tweeted at 8:46am Sunday morning.
The FARC delegation in Havana, Cuba, also confirmed the liberation of the three hostages, and called on the Colombian government to restart the peace talks.
“We invite Santos, with our hearts in our hands, back to the negotiating table,” lead FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez read in a statement broadcast live over the Venezuelan news network TeleSUR on Sunday.
President Santos refused to allow the peace talks, in which three of the items of the 5-point talks agenda have already been agreed on, to continue until all the hostages were freed.
Marquez also added over Twitter that he hoped the release of the three hostages on Sunday, as well as setting free of two other low-ranking army soldiers on November 25, would be returned in kind with the release of guerrilla “political prisoners” in Colombian jails.
“We hope that this release extends its benefits to social and political prisoners in the country,” he tweeted Saturday evening.
The FARC rebels have previously called for a bilateral ceasefire during the peace process, but Santos has dismissed the idea, saying this will only happen once a peace accord is signed.
The question now is when the peace talks will be restarted, and if the terms for such talks will change in light of the current crisis.
By Mark Kennedy