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Guatemalan Farmers Free Belgian Hostages


Guatemalan officials say protesting farmers in the eastern jungle have released four Belgian tourists taken captive Friday.

Officials say the four tourists were freed late Saturday following negotiations between the government and the kidnappers. Reports say the Belgians were exchanged for three members of an indigenous farmers' group who had been detained by local authorities.

The two Belgian couples were seized along with two Guatemalan guides as they traveled up a river near the Caribbean coast by farmers angry over the arrest of a local community leader, Ramiro Choc. The farmers demanded to speak with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.

The kidnappers are from the same group of indigenous farmers who briefly held 29 policemen hostage last month, and made similar demands.

The mob freed the 29 hostages after the government agreed to discuss property issues and the possibility of dropping charges against the jailed farm leader, who was detained on charges that included illegal land invasion and robbery.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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