Kidnapped Colombians urge Uribe to compromise

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP As noted in this morning’s Brief, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe heads to Washington this week to fight for a U.S. aid package and to rebut unsubstantiated charges—apparently deemed credible by no less than former U.S. Vice President Al Gore—that he has had ties to paramilitary death squads. Back at home, he’s got plenty ...

602226_070430_uribe_05.jpg
602226_070430_uribe_05.jpg

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP

As noted in this morning's Brief, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe heads to Washington this week to fight for a U.S. aid package and to rebut unsubstantiated charges—apparently deemed credible by no less than former U.S. Vice President Al Gore—that he has had ties to paramilitary death squads.

Back at home, he's got plenty of other worries. Twelve kidnapped Colombian lawmakers recently issued an emotional plea to Uribe to initiate talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The officials, who are being held in the Colombian jungle along with hundreds of other civilian victims, delivered their message by video. It was the first sign they are alive in over a year. Families wept as they watched their loved ones speak directly to the president, urging him to agree to the rebels' conditions for their release. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told the press:

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP

As noted in this morning’s Brief, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe heads to Washington this week to fight for a U.S. aid package and to rebut unsubstantiated charges—apparently deemed credible by no less than former U.S. Vice President Al Gore—that he has had ties to paramilitary death squads.

Back at home, he’s got plenty of other worries. Twelve kidnapped Colombian lawmakers recently issued an emotional plea to Uribe to initiate talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The officials, who are being held in the Colombian jungle along with hundreds of other civilian victims, delivered their message by video. It was the first sign they are alive in over a year. Families wept as they watched their loved ones speak directly to the president, urging him to agree to the rebels’ conditions for their release. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told the press:

If they [the FARC] want an agreement we are willing to do this even by telephone … But they insist on the demilitarization of [the towns of] Florida and Pradera, which is the bottle neck in all of this.”

President Uribe, whose father was killed by the FARC 20 years ago, is in a tight spot. He has achieved considerable economic and security success with a tough, militaristic approach to the FARC. Now his opponents have put him in a position where he must show his humane side. It’s a smart move on their part. The FARC have personalized their message, disguising the fact that it’s the cocaine trade—in which Florida and Pradera are key locations—that fuels their struggle, not popular support.

Let’s hope Uribe shows equal brains when measuring his response, and doesn’t let the fate of 12 government officials outweigh the future of 45 million inhabitants.

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