Colombian rebels have released a video of five kidnapped members of the security forces who asked the government to make a deal with the Marxist guerrillas for their release, local media reported.
The four police officers and one soldier are among 22 of the Andean nation's security forces held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The FARC, funded by the cocaine trade, has been fighting the state for four decades.
"I want to tell President Alvaro Uribe and presidential candidates Juan Manuel Santos, Antanas Mockus and the rest that negotiation with insurgent groups should make an end to kidnappings," Sergeant Jose Libio Martinez said in a video shown on a local television station late on Sunday.
"We, as victims of kidnapping, have signed with our blood, tears and suffering," said Martinez, kidnapped in 1997.
The FARC, battered by a U.S.-backed offensive since Uribe took power in 2002, wants to exchange hostages for rebel prisoners. It sent the video to opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba, who is in charge of mediating the hostages' release.
The two men vying to replace Uribe as president -- former Defense Minister Santos and independent candidate Mockus -- --- face off in a June 20 second round election but both have dismissed any possibility of a deal with illegal armed groups.
The captives appeared in good health, wearing T-shirts and standing behind sheets to hide their location. Proof-of-life videos are often produced ahead of hostage releases.
Families of the captives cried and celebrated seeing their loved ones alive, a local TV station showed.
"It's proof my father is alive," said Martinez's son Johan, who was born while his father was in captivity. "He keeps fighting for his liberty as I continue fighting for the liberty of my father."
Despite being pushed back into remote areas of Colombia, the FARC maintains a strong presence in some areas, especially near the borders of Venezuela and Ecuador. But the strength of the rebel group is a far cry from what it was eight years ago.
In the video, Sergeant Luis Alberto Erazo, who has been held since 1999, called on FARC leader Alfonso Cano to take steps for the release of all captives.
"Don't forget about us. Help us to be with our families. We want to be with them," Erazo said. "I ask you that this year you help all of us who are kidnapped here in the jungle to return to our homes."
ReutersLast Mod: 08 Haziran 2010, 02:55