The Miami Herald
October 4, 2007
President Hugo Chávez met with a French diplomat Thursday as the Venezuelan leader seeks to broker a deal for the release of rebel-held hostages in Colombia, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.
Daniel Parfait, director of the Americas for France's foreign ministry, went to Caracas for talks ahead of Chávez's planned visit to Paris next month to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Chávez is trying to help mediate a swap of jailed Colombian guerrillas for hostages, including Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate held for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen, was kidnapped while campaigning in southern Colombia and was last seen publicly in a video statement in 2003.
Sarkozy's government is urging the FARC to provide mediators with proof that Betancourt is alive.
Chávez -- whose role has been welcomed by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe -- says he believes Betancourt is still alive, France's Paris-Match magazine reported on Wednesday.
''In any case, we have no information that would make me think she is dead,'' he was quoted as saying. ``All the information we have indicates she is alive.''