France takes in first Colombian ex-rebel

11th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

A former FARC member who freed a hostage arrived in Paris on Wednesday to start a new life.

PARIS – A former Colombian Marxist rebel arrived in Paris Wednesday, the first to be rewarded for freeing a hostage with a new life in France.

Wilson Bueno Largo, known as Isaza, and his partner Lilia Isabel stepped off a plane accompanied by Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician freed in July after six years in captivity in the Colombian jungle.

Bueno, 28, is the first to benefit from France's offer to take in rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who lay down their weapons and are not wanted by Bogota for crimes.

Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santo said Tuesday that the two would start a new life in France as a "reward" for freeing lawmaker Oscar Lizcano, among the most prized hostages held by the FARC.

Betancourt told AFP that France's decision to give the former rebel a new home would be a strong incentive for other rebels to release hostages.

"I am happy that France is taking in this guerrilla with much generosity and with much responsibility," said Betancourt.

France offered 12 months ago to take in FARC rebels who defect, taking hostages along with them, at a time when it was desperately seeking to win the freedom of Betancourt, then believed to be seriously ill.

Bueno fled the FARC's jungle camps with Lizcano in October and handed over the 63-year-old lawmaker held hostage for eight years to the Colombian military.

After prosecutors dropped kidnapping charges against him, Bueno was allowed to leave the country under the terms of an agreement between Colombia and France.

A Colombian defence official said he would receive a reward of a USD 430,000 (EUR 330,000), but sources in France said the money had yet to be paid.

Latin America's oldest and most powerful insurgency, the FARC has been trying to topple the Bogota government since the 1960s and is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed that France was opening its doors to former FARC rebels "who have repented" but declined to give details about Bueno's case.

French sources said he would be granted a residency permit and receive a monthly allowance of EUR 800 from Bogota to help him adjust to life in France after spending 12 years in the Colombian jungle.

Bueno speaks no French and knows very little about France.

"I will be discovering (the country) but what appears clear to me is that the future is positive," he told a news conference before leaving Colombia this week.

Some 3,000 people are currently held hostage in Colombia; between 300 and 700 of them by the FARC and the rest by other left-wing guerrilla movements, paramilitary groups and drug-trafficking gangs.

[AFP / Expatica]

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