Bogota (AFP) – U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said Monday he hopes to travel to Colombia “soon” to help negotiate the release of a former U.S. soldier held captive by leftist rebels.
In a statement released from Havana, where he is visiting, Jackson said he was hoping to gain entry to Colombia provided he had support from President Juan Manuel Santos, insisting that hostage Kevin Scott Sutay was merely a “lost tourist.”
“I hope to come to Colombia very soon for the protocols,” Jackson told Blu Radio.
“I told them he was not a terrorist, that he was really a lost tourist,” Jackson said of Sutay, who the rebels have branded a mercenary.
The FARC rebel group has requested Jackson’s assistance but Colombia’s government has said it only wants the Red Cross to mediate.
Sutay was captured in June in the central-eastern Colombian region of Guaviare when he traveled through the area as a tourist.
During a visit to Havana, where FARC rebels are negotiating with Colombian government representatives, Jackson said Saturday he would mediate in a bid to help Sutay, his family and the United States.
Santos — who also rejected the group’s request that leftist former senator Piedad Cordoba, who has mediated the release of more than 30 FARC hostages since 2008 — participate in the mission, wants Red Cross staff only.
Santos said he will not allow “the release to be turned into a show for the media.”
It was not immediately clear if either side was prepared to bend to make the American’s release happen.
Peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government opened last November in Cuba, the fourth attempt since the 1980s to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.
In early 2012, the FARC committed unilaterally to stop kidnapping civilians.