- Colombia - FARC - hostages - Ingrid Betancourt
Cuba's former president Fidel Castro has urged the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group to free its remaining hostages, after the rescue last week by Colombian commandos of 15 captives held by the Marxist rebels.
Castro however cautioned that the leftist guerrillas should not lay down their weapons, warning that as a rule, fighters who have done so over the past half-century "did not survive to see the peace."
"I have openly and energetically criticized the objectively cruel methods of kidnapping and holding prisoners in the jungle," Castro wrote in an Internet article posted late Saturday, just days after Colombia's military rescued the group's most prized hostages.
"If I may dare to suggest something to the FARC guerrillas, it is that they simply, by whatever means at their disposal, declare that they have unconditionally freed all the hostages and prisoners still under their control."
The FARC continues to hold several hundred hostages, although its most valuable captives were among the 15 -- including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors -- rescued Wednesday by Colombian soldiers, who infiltrated a FARC jungle hideout and tricked guerrillas into handing them over.
In a separate article on Thursday, Castro praised the Colombian army's rescue of the hostages and said they should never have been held.
The ailing former president, 81, leader of Cuba's 1959 Marxist revolution, is an ideological kindred spirit with the FARC and an inspiration for the rebel group, as well as millions of other radicals and leftists across Latin America.
Castro gave up power two years ago after a half-century's rule of Cuba for health reasons, and ceding power to his brother Raul Castro, who formally took over as president in February.