VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia (Reuters) - The remains of a Colombian police officer who was kidnapped by rebels and died in captivity were handed over to his family on Thursday, the latest in a series of goodwill gestures by Marxist guerrillas.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, handed over the remains of Julian Guevara, who was kidnapped by the rebels in 1998 and died of a tropical disease while held in the country’s insect-infested southern jungles in 2006.
The handover to the International Committee of the Red Cross took place in the southwestern Guaviare region and followed the releases on Sunday and Tuesday of two soldiers held by the guerrillas.
“A son can never be forgotten,” said Guevara’s mother Emperatriz de Guevara, who had pleaded her son’s release, and then for his remains to be returned. “We have been waiting nearly 12 years.”
In an election in May, Colombians will choose a successor to President Alvaro Uribe, whose U.S.-backed security policies have made him a hero to many for forcing the rebels onto the defensive. Politicians whose policies mirror those of Uribe’s are leading in opinion polls.
The FARC has stepped up violence ahead of the vote. The cocaine-funded guerrilla force wants to raise its profile as it tries to set the stage for an exchange of kidnap victims for rebels held in government jails.
Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Chris Wilson