'US must exchange jailed rebels for 3 kidnapped Americans'
A senior rebel says, they will not consider piecemeal negotiations or prisoner swaps for the hostages, including the Americans.world Updated: Jun 17, 2007 11:08 IST
Three kidnapped US defense contractors and dozens of other hostages held by Colombian guerrillas must be swapped for all the guerrillas held in US and Colombian jails, a senior rebel said.
Rodrigo Granda, the so called "foreign minister" of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the rebels will not consider piecemeal negotiations or prisoner swaps for the hostages, including the Americans and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
"If the gringos want an agreement, then they must send back those rebels in prison in the US," Granda said in an interview with The Associated Press yesterday. "I understand the US government did similar swaps in return for captured Americans during the Cold War, so I don't see why they can't do it in this case."
US contractors Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes were kidnapped in 2003 when their plane went down in southern Colombia as they were carrying out an intelligence gathering mission. The FARC call them prisoners of war and accuses them of spying for the CIA.
FARC rebels imprisoned in the United States include guerrilla commander Nayibe "Sonia" Rojas, convicted earlier this year in a US court of exporting cocaine. Another commander, Ricardo Palmera, better known by the nom de guerre Simon Trinidad, is awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping the three contractors and drug trafficking.
The US has so far ruled out releasing the two imprisoned guerrillas. While both private contractors and the US military are helping search for the abducted Americans, the US has limited its statements on the three to say that their welfare is the responsibility of the FARC.