Farc pledges to release three hostages
By Benedict Mander in Caracas
Published: December 19 2007 01:38
Colombian rebels said on Tuesday they would release three hostages to Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, including an aide to former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt held captive since 2002.
Clara Rojos, her son Emmanuel, who was born in captivity, and Consuelo Gonzalez, a former lawmaker kidnapped in 2001, would be released in Colombia to Mr Chávez “or someone he designates”, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, said in a statement to Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. The statement, dated December 9, did not say when the release would take place.
Mr Chávez recently put relations with Colombia “in the freezer” after Alvaro Uribe, Colombian president, cancelled his role as mediator in the hostage crisis.
The leftwing guerilla group called its decision “compensation” for the families of the kidnapped and for Mr Chávez, whose treatment by Colombia’s government it described as “diplomatic barbarism”.
Mr Uribe terminated Mr Chávez’s role as mediator on November 21, after it became clear the Venezuelan leader had contacted Colombia’s army chief despite being asked not to. Mr Chávez reacted angrily, calling Mr Uribe a “pawn” of the US.
Videos were subsequently released showing prisoners, including Ms Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician captured during her presidential campaign in 2002, were still alive.
“It was thanks to Chávez that we got the proof of life of Ingrid and that the problem was recognised by the international community.” Lorenzo Delloye Betancourt, Ms Betancourt’s son, said. “I ask Chávez to continue.”
Mr Delloye Betancourt urged the international community to increase pressure on the Colombian government to achieve the release of the 45 hostages held by Farc in exchange for 500 imprisoned rebels.
Farc said Mr Uribe’s offer this month of a 250-sq km “meeting point” where a possible prisoner swap could be discussed was “unacceptable”. Instead, it continued to demand a larger demilitarised zone in southwest Colombia for the talks.
Luis Carlo Restrepo, Colombia’s high commissioner for peace, said the news should be treated with “caution”, since Farc had previously said it would release prisoners without fulfilling its promise.
Farc’s statement thanked Mr Chávez for “his dedication, his colossal effort as a facilitator, his good faith, [and] his solidarity with the peaceful cause of the Colombian people”.
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