PARIS – Colombia's FARC rebels are asking France's new Socialist president for help in facilitating talks with their country's government, according to a French journalist freed from captivity in the Colombian jungles.
Romeo Langlois arrived in Paris on Friday to be reunited with his family and will meet with French President Francois Hollande. The 35-year-old had been held by leftist rebels for a month and was released Wednesday.
Langlois, an independent journalist on assignment for France 24 television, said the FARC used his kidnapping to show the world that they are still active despite Colombian military efforts to wipe them out.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by their Spanish acronym, says it is a peasant-based army that is fighting for a more equal distribution of wealth, particularly of Colombia's land, which is concentrated in the hands of very few.
Two major peace negotiations between the government and FARC have failed over the past three decades.
The rebels gave him a letter to pass on to Hollande, and it includes a request "to ask France to continue to play its role as a friend of Colombia to help in trying to negotiate," Langlois told reporters in Paris.
"The FARC, who I think really want a negotiated solution, are obliged to kidnap people to attract attention. Not only to themselves, but ... as a reminder that there is an extremely serious conflict," Langlois said.
"They are hoping that a lot of European countries, of course including France, will help the parties to lower the tensions," he said. "There is a lot of hate."
He later told reporters that the Colombian government had also asked him to pass on a request to the French government to help "reduce tensions."
Hollande, who met with Langlois on Friday, said the government would not get involved.
"We hope that there is a political process, and that is all there is to say," he said after the meeting.
Langlois described his kidnapping as a "tough blow for the Colombian government" and those who say the rebels have been defanged and security restored. Both he and Hollande stressed that no ransom was paid nor any concession made to the rebels for his release.
He said he was treated well by his kidnappers, but firmly denied being a rebel spokesman. He criticized the FARC for using his capture for propaganda purposes.
The journalist was accompanying Colombian soldiers on a cocaine-lab destruction mission on April 28 when rebels attacked. Four security force members were killed and Langlois was wounded in the arm. He fled into rebel hands.
The rebels criticized him in one communique as lending himself to government propaganda by accompanying the military.
Langlois, who has spent years covering Colombia and its conflicts, said he will go back to work there despite the kidnapping.