Media Center

Press Release


  May 7, 2003

Member country delegations at the Organization of American States (OAS) today expressed solidarity with the people and government of Colombia, in the wake of the weekend assassination of Antioquia Governor Guillermo Gaviria, former Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverrí and several soldiers kidnapped by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

Permanent Council Chairman Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana cited a press release the OAS Secretary General had issued on May 5 denouncing the assassinations and conveying sympathy to the families of the victims.

María Clara Isaza, Colombian Alternate Representative to the OAS, thanked the Council for the expressions of solidarity, stressing that President Alvaro Uribe has reaffirmed the government’s determination to defeat terrorism. She said “Colombia deeply appreciates the solidarity expressed by the countries of the Hemisphere as our country mourns.”

She said the FARC guerrillas had violated every rule of international humanitarian law by kidnapping people to pressure the Colombian society into paying ransom or to force society and institutions into making concessions. "FARC has used this tactic to collect more than US$100 million a year in ransom for civilian kidnap victims.”

Noting that over 3,000 people were kidnapped in Colombia every year—most of them civilians—the Colombian diplomat told the Permanent Council that inhumane treatment is meted out to kidnap victims, who are often held under extremely dangerous conditions in forbidding territory. They are often chained and not allowed visits by humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross. She also pointed to instances of ransom money being collected even after the kidnap victims have been killed. She said “Colombians and foreigners from all walks of life, including women and children, are subjected to this kind of inhumane treatment.”

Reference: E-106/03