Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian president rejects Jesse Jackson Farc mediation

Rev Jesse Jackson
Image caption The Rev Jesse Jackson had said he would be travelling to Colombia next week

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected proposed mediation by US civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson over a rebel-held hostage.

Mr Santos said only the Red Cross would be allowed to be involved, because he did not want "a media spectacle".

Jesse Jackson had agreed to go to Colombia next week to seek the release of former US marine Kevin Scott Sutay, held by leftist Farc rebels since June.

The Farc say they want to free Mr Scott to boost peace talks.

During a visit to Cuba on Saturday, Rev Jesse Jackson had agreed to mediate, following a Farc statement saying his "experience and probity" would speed up the process of freeing Mr Scott, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

But President Santos reacted quickly, writing on Twitter.

"Only the Red Cross will be allowed to facilitate the release of the North American kidnapped by the Farc. We won't allow a media spectacle."

'Service to nation'

Earlier this month, during a visit to Colombia, Jesse Jackson had called on Colombia's largest rebel group to release Mr Scott.

The left-wing rebels responded by releasing a statement on Saturday inviting the civil rights leader to participate in the negotiations over the ex-soldiers' release.

Hours later, the American leader accepted the invitation in Cuba, where he had met rebel leaders who are in Havana for peace talks with the Colombian government, as a service "to Kevin Scott, his family and our nation."

"We have made contact with the State Department urging them to contact as quickly as possible the nearest of kin of Kevin Scott because his release is imminent," he said.

Image caption President Santos: No 'media spectacle'

In their statement, the Farc say they have not yet released Mr Scott because the government has not "fulfilled the minimum conditions required" for freeing him.

Earlier this week, the left-wing rebels had requested the involvement of former Senator Piedad Cordoba in the release process, but President Santos also dismissed this to avoid a "media spectacle".

As a result, on Friday Mrs Cordoba sent a letter to the Farc declining to participate.

The freeing of Mr Scott would "contribute to a positive mood" in the continuing peace talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, the Farc say.

So far, officially there has been agreement on only one of six points on the agenda - land reform.

Five decades of internal conflict in Colombia have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

And a study by Colombia's National Centre for Historical Memory suggests 220,000 people have died in the violence.

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