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US shuns FARC hostage swap call Print
US shuns FARC hostage swap call

Morning Star June 29, 2005

Colombia's main Marxist guerilla group offered on Monday to swap three kidnapped US
mercenaries for two of the group's leaders who are in prison in the US, but Washington immediately rejected the proposal.

"The FARC has informed the US government and the State Department that it's willing to open discussions," Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) spokesman Raul Reyes told local television.

It was the first time that the rebels have expressed a willingness to deal directly
with US authorities.

"US policy is not to make concessions to terrorists. We believe such concessions will
only encourage future hostage-takings," a US embassy official said.

Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell were captured on February 13, 2003,
after their small plane crashed in a rebel stronghold in southern Colombia.

The guerillas allegedly killed a fourth US citizen and a Colombian soldier who were
also on the plane.

Mr Gonsalves's mother Jo Rosano tearfully denounced the US refusal to negotiate with
the FARC.

"US authorities haven't done anything. I think they would rather see them dead and
the whole thing go away," said Ms Rosano, who is currently in Bogata to push for her
son's release.

Mr Reyes said that the three US mercenaries, whom he accused of being CIA agents,
were "in good health."

The FARC is willing to free them in exchange for Ricardo Palmera and Omaira Rojas -
two FARC guerilla leaders who were extradited in December and March respectively to
face drug-trafficking charges in US federal courts, Mr Reyes said.

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