* Sutay seized in June during jungle trek
* Santos stance could complicate his release
* Peace talks continue in Cuba
By Helen Murphy
BOGOTA, July 23 Colombian President Juan Manuel
Santos said he would not allow FARC rebels to make a media
circus of the release of a U.S. citizen they captured last month
after the group "flagrantly violated" a promise to end
kidnappings before peace talks began.
In an irate address, Santos said he would deprive the FARC
of any media benefit from the capture of Kevin Scott Sutay as he
trekked across a dangerous jungle stretch of eastern Colombia.
Santos also refused to allow former Senator Piedad Cordoba to
participate in the handover.
The president did not specify what the media restrictions
would be but it's possible there will be no coverage of the
release until Sutay returns to Bogota or a local airport.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, said on
Friday that as a gesture of goodwill it would free Sutay to
Cordoba, a leftist politician who has been involved in numerous
high-profile captive releases, and the International Committee
of the Red Cross.
Santos' refusal to allow Cordoba to head the mission, which
the FARC had specifically requested, may complicate efforts to
release Sutay, who defied police warnings not to venture
cross-country alone. The government and FARC have been engaged
in peace talks in Cuba since November.
The liberation of dozens of FARC captives over the years has
drawn huge media interest, angering Santos as press coverage of
the event often gives the insurgent group's profile a boost on
the international stage.
"These gentlemen of the FARC, violating in a flagrant way
the commitment they made at the start of peace talks, are
holding hostage a North American citizen - and they didn't
kidnap him before, they kidnapped him recently without any
justification or reason."
"Now they want to free him amid a media show and want the
whole country and the world to thank them for their humanitarian
gesture," said Santos at the opening of Colombia Fashion Week in
the western city of Medellin.
It was not immediately clear if the center-right president
was referring to the violation of a pledge the FARC made in
February 2012 to abandon the practice of kidnapping for ransom
or some broader agreement that has not been made public.
The FARC on Friday declared Sutay, 26, a prisoner of war,
implying that the former U.S. Marine could be a mercenary. The
rebels maintain the right to take military targets as captives.
Even as the 8,000-strong guerrilla group has been weakened
by a decade-long U.S.-backed offensive, last month's kidnapping,
in tandem with a weekend of heavy military losses in combat with
the FARC, proves it is still a force to be reckoned with.
Sutay's capture will also add to the climate of tension at
the negotiating table in Cuba as the two sides try to hobble
together a peace accord while they trade barbs over rebel
backing of a rural protest that the FARC offered to arm.
"I want to tell them in a clear and convincing way that I
will not permit even Piedad Cordoba or any official of any kind
to go for the man who was kidnapped,"
"I will only allow the Red Cross, in a completely discreet
way, to make the preparations and to facilitate the release of
(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)