posted on Dec, 22 2009 @ 06:19 PM
More on that AP article here ( cont )
A furious President Alvaro Uribe, whose rancher father was killed by leftist rebels in a botched 1983 kidnapping, ordered soldiers and police to
rescue Cuellar, who is also a cattle rancher.
"We cannot continue to submit to the whims of the terrorists, of the terrorists who bathe this country in blood," Uribe told reporters in Bogota.
Defense Minister Gabriel Silva blamed the kidnapping on the elite "Teofilo Forero" unit of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or
FARC, and announced a $500,000 reward for information leading to Cuellar's rescue.
Paez said at least 2,000 police and army special forces soldiers were creating a ring around the heights where the rebels were believed to have taken
The 69-year-old Cuellar already had been kidnapped for ransom four times since 1987. His wife, Himelda Galindo, told the AP that he was held from two
to seven months in past abductions. She said she did not remember how much ransom they paid.
Caqueta has long been a FARC stronghold and is among Colombian states with the highest military presence, including an army division headquarters in
It was in Caqueta where the FARC abducted French-Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2002.
That was the last year in which the FARC registered a kidnapping of a major politician, also seizing state governors and congressmen.
After Uribe was elected that year to his first term, kidnappings that had been common in Colombia's countryside sharply diminished.
The conservative president launched a full frontal assault on the FARC that he called "Democratic Security," nearly doubling the size of Colombia's
military and benefiting from $700 million in annual U.S. military aid.
His government's July 2008 rescue of Betancourt was a triumph of Uribe's determined campaign to decimate the rebels.
Nevertheless, Silva said in a newspaper interview last weekend that Colombia's largest rebel army is "neither vanquished nor in its death throes"
— though it has been reduced by desertions and killings to about 8,000 fighters, half its size in 2002.
The 45-year-old FARC did not immediately take responsibility for the kidnapping, but analysts had little doubt it was behind the bold, pre-Christmas
action. The FARC has a history of staging attacks at this time of year.
On Dec. 21, 1997, the rebel group killed at least a dozen soldiers and captured several others in an attack on the remote highlands outpost of
Patascoy. One of those captured, Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, is now among the longest-held of 24 soldiers and police the rebels hold as bargaining
Through intermediaries, the FARC has in recent weeks been negotiating Moncayo's release.
The soldier's father, Gustavo Moncayo, said Tuesday that he feared Uribe was putting his son's life in jeopardy by ordering a military rescue of
"This man doesn't care about the lives of the abducted. He doesn't care a thing about the lives of the soldiers and the police," Moncayo said in a
The rebels, who finance their insurgency chiefly from the coc aine trade, released the last of the high-profile politicians they held in
Associated Press writers Frank Bajak, Luisa Fernanda Cuellar and Cesar Garcia contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.