BOGOTA – The National Liberation Army (ELN) on Thursday released former Colombian Congressman Odin Sanchez Montes de Oca, who had been held captive by the leftist guerrilla group for 10 months, to an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) commission.
Sanchez and the ICRC team will travel by helicopter to Quibdo, capital of Choco province, where the captive’s family is waiting, the office of the high commissioner for peace said.
“Welcome to freedom, Odin Sanchez! Now we are ready to begin negotiations with the ELN and work to achieve complete peace,” Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo said on Twitter.
By freeing Sanchez, the ELN met the government’s last remaining condition for initiating talks next week in Quito.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration is now in the process of implementing a peace accord signed in November with the Andean nation’s largest insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Odin Sanchez had been in the hands of the ELN since April 2016, when he volunteered to take the place of his ailing brother Patrocinio, kidnapped by the rebels more than two years earlier.
In an interview with Caracol Radio prior to his release, Sanchez said that while he suffered from some physical problems, he was in good spirits.
“There are little things that pertain to the operating room, but my mental, psychological, and spiritual health is enviable,” he told the network from his captivity in what he described as “fourth-world” conditions.
The same time that Sanchez was being handed over to the ICRC, authorities released two ELN members from a prison in Santander province.