This is something that has bugged me for a long time. Discussion about FARC hostages in Colombia invariably boils down to the Presidential candidate with French citizenship, the American contractors, and other 45 "prominent" people held by the FARC:
But such high-profile hostages represent a mere 4 percent of all the 3,000-plus kidnapping victims in Colombia, according to the Free Country Foundation [www.paislibre.org], a non-governmental organization that fights against kidnappings and helps victims' families. Aside from the 45, the FARC alone currently holds at least 700 others for monetary ransoms.
'Those are the `anonymous hostages,' '' said Olga Lucia Gómez, director of Free Country, ``the ones no one talks about.''
They are typically middle-class men who own small businesses, butcher shops, small-town bakeries and mom-and-pop stores. They are kidnapped for ransom, either by the FARC, the smaller rebel group National Liberation Army, common criminals or right-wing paramilitary groups. Captors often demand exorbitant amounts of money from the families.
Rest of Article Here.
There are people who have been held for a decade in captivity, like the soldier whose father crossed Colombia to bring attention to his plight. Just this week, the Colombian military found a mass grave where hostages were executed by the FARC apparently for not coming up with the payment.
This context of the scope of the kidnappings by the FARC, shows why it is such a major issue for the Uribe government. It affects a wide spectrum of Colombian society, and does not even account for people (sometimes kids) who were "pressed" into service by the guerillas.
The FARC are at this point a sectarian militia operating as a criminal enterprise, which tears at the Colombian government and society. Like the paramilitaries they have no reason to exist, except as part of a history of 60 years of violence, gangsterism and blood feuds that have perpetuated themselves for too long in the Colombian hinterlands.