2003 Capture of U.S. Citizens Attains Justice

Clarissa Garcia, Staff Writer

At last, American citizens can release a sigh of relief.  In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the commander of the FARC terrorist group, Beltran Herrera pleaded guilty three-fold for the 2003 kidnappings of U.S. citizens in Colombia. 

The FARC, translated in English, is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Since 1964, this violent group has partaken in armed conflict, aiming to overthrow the Republic of Colombia. The FARC proved successful when imposing demands from the nation-state by taking hostages, the most common technique. Now these individuals not only put these methods into effect against on their own people, but also toward any foreigners that infiltrate the country. Deeming U.S. citizens as “military targets,” an outbreak of violence has caused Americans to fall victims to hostage taking and even murder. In 1997, the United States Secretary of State classified FARC as a foreign terrorist group, and this designation remains such even today.

On February 13, 2003, Herrera and his men lost their single-engine aircraft after it crashed in the Colombian jungle. They then proceeded to take hold of the American citizens: Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Janis, alongside Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen. Janis and Cruz were killed at the crash site as a means to both threaten and force the Colombian government to succumb to the demands of the FARC. The remaining men were constantly relocated to different sites for the next forty days.

After the lapse of the forty days, the men were transported to the FARC 27th front, where they were imprisoned for two years. Under imprisonment, the men suffered from brutal treatment, including choke harnesses, chains, padlocks, and wires. For 1, 967 days (approximately five years), the men remained hostage. By July 2008, the Colombian military issued a risky operation that ultimately resulted in the rescue of the men.

Mr. Herrera’s sentence will be announced on July 25th. Since the offense of hostage taking is so heinous, it carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Nonetheless, because the extradition process was in Colombia, the United States has settled that the sentence will not exceed 60 years.

Clarissa Garcia is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. She is a college freshman currently Undecided at American University, but leaning to the Education field, looking into Secondary Education.

Source: The FBI Miami Division