Latin America’s oldest left-wing guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, released an American hostage over the weekend that CNN reports being captured back in June.
“We are pleased to have facilitated his release so he can be reunited with his family,” commented Jordi Raich, head of the International Committee for the Red Cross delegation in Colombia.
Kevin Scott Sutay, a U.S. Army private from Willow Spring, NC who served from 2009 to 2013, was released in an effort that was facilitated by the ICRC and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Sutay was certified by a multinational team of doctors as being in good enough physical condition to return home to the United States.
The civil war between FARC rebels and the government of Colombia began in the 1960s, and continues to the present day. Sporadic ceasefires have occurred since the 1980s, but the previous attempt in 2002 to end the war failed, and FARC guerrillas continued to kidnap civilians and government officials, a practice that it uses to fund its operations despite previous promises to stop.
A statement from FARC has the rebel group agreeing as early as July to release Sutay as a gesture of good will towards the peace talks between it and the Colombian government.
When Sutay was captured by the rebels, FARC initially described him as a mercenary, but Jesse Jackson insisted he had no nefarious intentions. “The fact is, he is a tourist,” Jackson argued.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos seemed less than thrilled with Jesse Jackson’s involvement when he tweeted (in Spanish) that the Red Cross is solely authorized to facilitate the release of the FARC hostage, and not to create a media spectacle:
[Image via a YouTube of Colombian Army soldiers and FARC rebels engaged in combat]
Solamente Cruz Roja será autorizada para facilitar entrega de norteamericano secuestrado por las FARC. No permitiremos espectáculo mediático
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) September 28, 2013