Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Sunday, 22 June 2008 08:48 UK

Farc rebels release hostage video

Sigifredo Lopez as seen in the Farc video
Lopez accused the government and the rebels of "cruelty and barbarism"

Colombian rebels have released a video designed to show that a leading politician they have been holding hostage is alive.

It was not clear when the video was filmed, but it appeared to be recent.

Sigifredo Lopez is the only survivor of a group of 12 politicians who were killed by the Farc rebels in 2002.

In the video, shown on Colombian TV, Mr Lopez calls on the government to reach a deal with the rebels to exchange prisoners for Colombian hostages.

Colombia refuses to deal with the rebels, and is intent on destroying them militarily, says our correspondent there.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) hold many hostages, including about 40 high-profile captives they say they want to swap for imprisoned rebels.

The rebels are believed to be at their weakest point in years, following the death of their long-time leader, Manuel Marulanda, in March.

Slim chance

The video showed the politician, from the city of Cali, wearing a crucifix around his neck, telling his family not to worry, that he was still alive and determined to survive until he could come home again.

He is the only survivor of the group of 12 politicians kidnapped from the Cali local assembly in broad daylight by the Farc in 2002.

Farc rebels
The Farc hold about 40 high-profile hostages

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of his 11 companions have long been disputed.

The government said the rebels killed the deputies in a mistaken clash between two guerrilla groups, while the Farc said the hostages died in an attack by an unidentified armed group.

Mr Lopez survived as he had been separated from them due to a leg injury. In the video, he revealed that the guerrillas' position had not changed, that they were still demanding a safe haven as a venue to discuss the release of some 40 political hostages for hundreds of rebels in prison.

President Alvaro Uribe has refused to grant such a safe haven.

Mr Lopez said both sides "keep showing the world their cruelty and barbarism" by not giving ground on the territorial issue.

As things stand, for Mr Lopez and the other hostages, some of whom have had more than a decade in their jungle prisons, the chance of freedom is as remote as ever, says our correspondent.

Rich rebels

Farc is the oldest and largest group among Colombia's left-wing rebels and is one of the world's richest guerrilla armies.

It was founded in 1964 when it declared its intention to use armed struggle to overthrow the government and install a Marxist regime.

But like most of the paramilitary groups in Colombia's 40-year civil conflict, it has become increasingly involved in the drug trade.

Colombia is known as the "kidnap capital of the world", with one person a day, down from 10 a day in 2002, being snatched either for ransom or political bargaining.

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