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Rebels Release Colombia Mayor’s Girl

August 1, 2002

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Rebels have released a mayor’s 3-year-old daughter two weeks after kidnapping her in an attempt to force her father to resign, officials said Thursday.

Colon Mayor Libardo Erazo’s daughter, Francy Lorena Erazo, and her nanny, kidnapped on July 18 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were released to the state human rights ombudsman Wednesday night, the national office said.

The FARC has threatened to kill or kidnap hundreds of mayors, including her father, Libardo Erazo, if they didn’t resign.

Erazo had submitted his resignation before the child was taken, but state government officials had refused to accept it. He believed the FARC kidnapped her to send a message to all the mayors that their families would be in danger as well if they didn’t resign.

Eduardo Cifuentes, the national human rights ombudsman, would not discuss details of the child’s release, saying only that she was in good health but a bit upset after the ordeal.

The town of Colon is 310 miles southwest of Bogota.

More than 150 mayors around the country have resigned since early June when the FARC began its campaign of intimidation against local officials. Several city halls have been forced to close when other municipal employees quit out of fear.

The FARC has also kidnapped the adult son of another mayor.

The national government has urged the mayors to continue running their cities, offering them flak jackets, body guards and in some cases the opportunity to work from within military bases. Many mayors have complained that the extra security is not enough.

Colombia’s 38-year civil war pits the FARC and a smaller rebel group against government forces and illegal right-wing militias. Some 3,500 people die ever year in the fighting.

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