Police officers who were kidnapped by the FARC

Colombia's largest guerrilla group the FARC was set to release two abducted policemen, and promised to free a soldier, in a gesture that could calm the controversy that threatened to destabilize peace talks with the government.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed to hand the hostages over to delegates from the Red Cross and NGO Colombians for Peace on February 14, after the military said they would suspend operations in the area.

The FARC kidnapped the two policemen in the province of Valle del Cauca on January 25. According to police, the officers had been investigating criminal activities in a rural zone on the outskirts of Cali.

The rebels still hold Josue Alvarez, a soldier kidnapped in the southwestern department of Nariño on 30 January, but will release him in a separate operation on 16 February, according to negotiators.

Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), announced on 12 February that it had released five of the six kidnapped employees of Geo Explorer, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Braeval.

However, the claim was promptly dismissed by the army who said they had made no contact with the ELN and there was no trace of the hostages.

The hostages now look set to be released as early as February 15, after the military confirmed they were in discussions with the guerrillas.

The fate of the two German tourists also kidnapped by the ELN in January remains uncertain.

Elsewhere in Colombia, fighting between the military and the guerrillas continued, with seven soldiers and six FARC guerrillas reported killed in combat in Caqueta.

InSight Crime Analysis

After the kidnappings, the FARC made an announcement defending their right to take "prisoners of war," suggesting that the men could be held for some time.

However, it makes sense that the rebels are backing down so quickly. It is likely the guerrillas carried out the kidnappings as a show of strength in the wake of their failed attempts to secure a bilateral ceasefire. This backfired as public outrage over the kidnappings fueled headlines proclaiming the peace talks to be in crisis, and left the guerrillas facing a PR dilemma.

It is likely the ELN also had an eye on the peace talks when kidnapping the mining workers, hoping to muscle their way into the negotiating table. However, this was a risky strategy which took a turn for the worse over their far-fetched claims the two elderly Germans were spies, making a speedy release of the mining hostages, who will likely soon be joined by the Germans, a better option.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...