World

Colombian rebels release proof-of-life video of politician held since April

384090 01: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Two members of the AUC, the United Self Defense Force of Colombia, the extreme right paramilitary group, patrol a coca leaf plantation where a manual eradication of the coca leaves has gone into effect January 8, 2001 in the province of Putumayo, Colombia. Since the U.S. aid plan for Colombia began last December 15, the AUC are manually destroying coca leaves with machetes in and around the vast areas of coca leaf plantations south of Putumayo. The Colombian leftist guerrilla group, the FARC, is attempting to take control of areas that were under their control, not more than a year ago. (Photo by Piero Pomponi/Newsmakers)

384090 01: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Two members of the AUC, the United Self Defense Force of Colombia, the extreme right paramilitary group, patrol a coca leaf plantation where a manual eradication of the coca leaves has gone into effect January 8, 2001 in the province of Putumayo, Colombia. Since the U.S. aid plan for Colombia began last December 15, the AUC are manually destroying coca leaves with machetes in and around the vast areas of coca leaf plantations south of Putumayo. The Colombian leftist guerrilla group, the FARC, is attempting to take control of areas that were under their control, not more than a year ago. (Photo by Piero Pomponi/Newsmakers)  ((Photo by Piero Pomponi/Newsmakers))

Colombia's second largest rebel group released the first proof-of-life video of a politician who handed himself over to the guerrillas to secure his brother's release last April.

The National Liberation Army's release of former Choco state Gov. Patrocinio Sánchez Montes de Oca was initially hailed by the government as a peace gesture. But to the amazement of otherwise war-weary Colombians, a darker truth later emerged — that his brother, Odin Sánchez, had taken his place in captivity at the rebels' demand.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who has ventured further than any of his predecessors in bringing an end to more than 50 years of guerrilla warfare, was forced to break off incipient peace talks with the rebel group.

In the undated, 11-minute video that surfaced Thursday, Odin Sánchez, a former congressman, urges Santos to resume talks with the ELN. Surrounded by heavily armed guerrillas in an undisclosed jungle location, he also complains about living in inhumane conditions comparable to what he calls the "fourth world."

"The government laid a trap for the people when it said it was ready to initiate conversations and then signaled that other conditions were required, like the liberation of those who are kidnapped, something that wasn't fully agreed to," Sánchez says in one of the fiercer critiques of the government in the video.

The ELN is Colombia's second-largest rebel group, with an estimated 1,500 fighters, and largely finances its insurgency through extortion and kidnappings. Almost four-year-old negotiations with the bigger and far-stronger rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, are expected to conclude in a peace deal in the coming weeks.

Sánchez's family expressed relief and say they share his wish that Santos resume talks with the ELN. The rebels are demanding a $1 million ransom for Sánchez's release.

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