Reward for ex Colombia rebels

December 11, 2008 12:00 am

, BOGOTA, Dec 11 – Colombian President Alvaro Uribe offered FARC guerrillas cash rewards and freedom if they desert the rebel ranks with some of the hostages they are holding, a proposal questioned by the attorney general.

Uribe made the offer Wednesday after former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla fighter Wilson Bueno, alias "Isaza," deserted the rebel group in October with lawmaker Oscar Lizcano, who was held captive for eight years.

Bueno, 28, took a flight to Paris where he will reside with his partner, ex-rebel Lilia Isabel. A Colombian defence official said Bueno would receive a 430,000-dollar reward.

"The government gives freedom and a cash reward" to rebels who release hostages and lay down their weapons, "whatever the nature of the crime" they are involved in, although they cannot be pardoned or granted amnesty, Uribe said.

Uribe justified the measure, saying that the defection of a guerrilla with an abductee was akin to a humanitarian agreement.

But Attorney General Mario Iguaran said Colombian law prohibits pardoning crimes such as those perpetrated by the FARC.

A humanitarian exchange has been considered for several years with FARC rebels, who hold between 350 and 700 hostages, including 28 so-called "political hostages" they want to swap for some 500 guerrillas held in Colombian and US jails.

Bueno is the first to benefit from France’s offer to take in FARC rebels who lay down their weapons and are not wanted in Colombia for crimes.

French sources said Bueno would be granted a residency permit and receive a monthly stipend of 800 euros (1,040 dollars) from Bogota to help him adjust to life in France after spending 12 years in the Colombian jungle.


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