Colombian rebels to prove captives alive

Por Venezuela Real - 6 de Noviembre, 2007, 13:07, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Miami Herald
Novemre 06, 2007

The chief of Colombia's FARC rebels has ordered his fighters to present proof that dozens of hostages are still alive, including three Americans and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday.

Chavez, who is seeking to negotiate a swap of hostages for jailed guerillas, said he received a written message saying rebel commander Manuel Marulanda "has ordered that the proof of life be taken."

"Not only Ingrid (Betancourt) but also the rest held by the FARC," Chavez told state television. "That could be an advancement."

Chavez said a meeting was imminent between him and two visiting members of the secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He did not identify them.

The socialist president said the leftist rebels' delegates would also meet with an envoy of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Prominent hostages held by the FARC include three U.S. defense contractors whose plane crashed in the Colombian jungles in 2003, and dual French-Colombian citizen Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who has been held captive for more than five years.

Betancourt's mother, Yolanda Pulecio, told Colombia's Caracol Radio on Monday that she is hopeful. "I realize that Chavez, step-by-step, is carrying out each of his promises" made to hostages' families, she said.

Chavez's mediation is one of the most significant efforts in years at direct negotiations with a group that Colombia, the U.S. and the European Union consider a terrorist organization. The FARC has not held talks with a head of state since its leaders met Colombia's then-President Andres Pastrana in January 2002.

Progress toward a proposed prisoner swap has long been frustrated by major disagreements between the rebels and Colombia's U.S.-allied government on the terms of any exchange. If the two sides manage to reach a deal, about 45 prominent hostages could be traded for jailed rebels.

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