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Friday, October 21, 2016
Colombia: siege at cathedral ends
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 The 'occupation' of Bogotá cathedral, by relatives of hostages being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, (FARC) has ended with the promise of fresh talks with the guerrillas. More than 30 relatives barricaded themselves in the cathedral on 10 December in an effort to draw attention to the plight of their family members who are being held hostage by the FARC rebels. They have now been told by President Alvaro Uribe that the 'Conciliation Commission' comprising several key representatives of the Church and other personalities will meet with a FARC delegation next week with the aim of reaching an agreement for the release of the prisoners. Uribe reportedly took this decision following a meeting with Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, President of the Bishops' Conference, who presented a proposal for a 'humanitarian agreement' drawn up by the hostages' relatives. "I believe we all have the duty to help," said the cardinal. "These are people who were abducted five, six or seven years ago. An ambassador told me just a short while ago that things like this didn't happen even during the Second World War." However, the President also clarified that the military operations aimed at liberating the prisoners will continue, in particular those underway in Sierra Nevada di Santa Marta, where ENL (National Liberation Army) is still holding five of the seven foreign tourists kidnapped in September. "The terrorist groups must understand that they cannot continue to play with abductions," said the president. So far the 'Conciliation Commission' has met with a FARC delegation twice, but without result. The guerrillas have said they will free politicians, soldiers, police agents and three United States citizens in exchange for the release of hundreds of their combatants. They are also asking for the demilitarisation of a large area in the south of the country, similar to the former 'distension zone' granted by then President Andrés Pastrana in October 1998. The government is demanding the liberation of all the hostages, including those abducted for ransom, and rejects the hypothesis of another demilitarised area. It is asking FARC for an official commitment not to carry out further abductions in exchange for exile abroad for the freed rebels. Source: MISNA
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