The CPI reports on world military aid A decision looms for Jorge Noguera
May 302007

Ángela Giraldo was a dentist in Cali until April 2002, when the FARC kidnapped her brother Francisco and eleven other state legislators from Valle del Cauca department (of which Cali is the capital). The guerrillas have been holding them and about 45 other hostages – in some cases for ten years – in order to pressure for a prisoner-exchange agreement with the Colombian government. Three of the hostages are U.S. citizens.

Ángela has since become a leading voice among the hostages’ family members, who have organized to pressure both sides to negotiate a “humanitarian exchange” of prisoners. The governor of Valle del Cauca, Angelino Garzón, named her to the post of departmental peace commissioner.

Ángela Giraldo was in Washington last week to attend events hosted by the U.S. Institute for Peace. I sat down with her to talk about obstacles to freeing the hostages, and the important role that the U.S. government could play. Here is a five-minute video.

2 Responses to “Ángela Giraldo: “U.S. accompaniment is important””

  1. richtiger Says:

    Well, I guess-considering the lives of the largely innocent hostages-that 785 sq. kilometers are not much compared to the 42,000 that Pastrana gave away. As long as Marulanda doesn’t insist on a personal interview with Uribe and a grand stage for the FARC, Uribe ought to give the FARC their “zona de despegue.” Pressure from the U.S. might be helpful in this regard–if it were forthcoming; but I just doubt that the Colombian hostages are very high on any congressman or senator’s priority list.

  2. KyleHanky Says:

    Perhaps what is quite interesting, looking at El Tiempo from the other day. Uribe is willing to make a almost “mini-zone de despeje” in order to, essentially, drop off the jailed guerrillas back into free life. If he is willing to do this, then Giraldo’s analysis near the end of the interview becomes even stronger. Not only can she/we ask, If Uribe is willing to free the prisoners, why not get a “zona de despeje” and get the same from the other side, but we can also wonder, If Uribe is willing to make a zona de despeje to drop off these guerrillas, why not use that same zone to get the agreement from the other side?

    Clearly, this all boils down to a near political game of chicken. If Uribe takes the realm on this issue, and possesses “the political will” to release the jailed guerrillas, it then falls to the FARC. Colombia’s people will then wait for their poltical will, which makes Uribe look even better because he took a great risk at it was the FARC that didn’t follow up. Though it now seems the FARC may have a little smidgen of political will, as Piedad Cordoba has “affirmed” that the FARC will release Betancourt, Clara Rojas and Clara Rojas’ child, born in captivity. Not much though from the FARC personally. If we take the previous peace process under Pastrana as example, we cannot expect the best of intentions from the FARC. It is more than sensible to have doubts about what the freed guerrillas will end up doing if they are freed (even though they apparently don’t want to be freed, for weak reasons, and probably are already taking orders from the higher-ups if not the Secretariat.) The FARC though probably do find themselves under a bit more pressure on this issue, which again the US could do more to pressure both sides to an agreement. I do agree with richtiger that it is probably not a high priority. That could change with the TLC in Congress, if a Congressman or woman has the “political will” to bring it up an aside, but an important one nonetheless.

    Again, while it is a bold move and not necessarily a bad one, what Uribe should do is work towards the better goal. Instead work incredibly hard towards one half of the goal, why not work just as hard towards the whole? Again, Colombia’s politicians put the game ahead of the best results, and people’s lives, which is all to typical for such a country and its history. With regards to the FARC, the political game and Colombian’s (and international’s) lives, no comment is needed.

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