Colombia Rebels Free Hostage

Odin Sanchez, the hostage freed by Colombia’s ELN guerrillas
Odin Sanchez, the hostage freed by Colombia’s ELN guerrillas

Colombia’s ELN guerrillas freed a hostage on Thursday and the government released two rebel prisoners in exchange, clearing the way for peace talks to begin next week.

The government hopes talks with the one remaining active rebel group in Colombia will seal a “complete peace” to end Latin America’s last major armed conflict, France24 reported.

Odin Sanchez, a former lawmaker held captive since April 2016, was handed over to the Red Cross in the remote jungle region of Choco in western Colombia.

The government in turn released the two jailed rebels, Nixon Cobos and Leivis Valero, in the mountains of Santander, in the northeast.

Described by their side as in poor health, they were met by ELN delegates on their release from prison.

The exchange clears the way for formal talks to open Tuesday in the Ecuadoran capital Quito.

The ELN, or National Liberation Army, is the last active rebel group in a country torn for more than half a century by a conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people and left 60,000 missing.

President Juan Manuel Santos is trying to end the fighting for good. He won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his efforts.

His government is currently implementing a historic peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

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