Hostage rescue, bombs, and presidential race

Colombia news roundup, via Plan Colombia and Beyond:

  • If all goes according to plan, Brazilian helicopters will pick up two soldiers who have been held by the FARC for years. The guerrillas are releasing Josué Daniel Calvo Marín on Sunday and Pablo Emilio Moncayo. Moncayo, whose father has become famous in Colombia for his campaign to free him, has been a FARC hostage since late 1997. He was 18 when the guerrillas took him after a battle in Patascoy, Putumayo; he is 30 now.
  • The head of Colombia’s armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla, told reporters that according to “high-quality intelligence,” the FARC are planning a campaign of high-profile attacks between now and the May 30 presidential election. This week saw several FARC attacks in southwestern Colombia: Cauca, Huila, a car bombing in downtown Buenaventura believed to be the work of the FARC, and a package bomb unwittingly delivered by a 12-year-old boy in Nariño.
  • Meanwhile violence attributed to “emerging” paramilitary groups escalated in the northwestern department of Córdoba. Seven people, among them three teenagers, were massacred in a bar in Puerto Libertador. Radio journalist Clodomiro Castillo, a critic of politicians tied to paramilitary groups, was gunned down on the front porch of his house in Montería.
  • The two pro-Uribe candidates lead the polling for the May 30 elections.
    • Gallup March 20-22: Juan Manuel Santos 34.2%; Noemí Sanín 23.3%; Antanas Mockus 10.4%; Gustavo Petro 6.4%; Germán Vargas Lleras 6.2%; Sergio Fajardo 6.1%; Rafael Pardo 5.1%
    • Datexco March 20-23: Juan Manuel Santos 34.1%; Noemí Sanín 21.7%; Antanas Mockus 8.9%; Gustavo Petro 7.1%; Germán Vargas Lleras 6.6%; Rafael Pardo 5.5%; Sergio Fajardo 4.4%
    • Both polls were taken before the first televised presidential debate, which took place the evening of March 23.
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