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Kidnapping bad for business? Why the FARC may actually mean what it says.

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Carlos Julio Martinez/AP

(Read caption) Soldiers patrol in Caldono, southern Colombia, after rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, attacked an army position with homemade mortars.

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• A version of this post ran on the author's site, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

The announcement that Colombia's FARC, the region's oldest and largest insurgency, would halt kidnappings was greeted with mixed emotions. But while the skeptics seem to outnumber the optimists, the new strategic and economic reality of the rebels leaves room for hope.

The·Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC's) declaration, slipped into the fifth paragraph of a communique (in Spanish) about the pending release of 10 longtime hostages from the security forces, was surprising for both its abruptness and introspective nature.

"Much has been said about retentions [FARC's word for kidnappings] of civilians," the group wrote on its website (in Spanish), before stating its intention to eliminate kidnappings as "part of its revolutionary action."

"It's time to clarify who and why one kidnaps today in Colombia," the group added.

[See InSight Crime's FARC profile]

Of course, the FARC did not clarify, and many wonder whether the offer was real. Like the longtime hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who was quoted at length in Spain's El Pais (in Spanish), most Colombians seemed to greet the announcement with relief mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

For his part, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos Tweeted that the announcement was "important," hardly a call for renewed peace talks (the two sides broke off their last talks in 2002, when the FARC commandeered a commercial aircraft, landed it on a highway and kidnapped several passengers, including a prominent politician).

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