December 08. 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Former Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday as part of her efforts to gain support from Latin American leaders for the release of Colombia's rebel-held hostages.
State television footage showed a smiling Betancourt chatting with Chavez at the presidential palace during the sixth leg of her regional tour to seek support for efforts to free hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
After emerging from the closed-door meeting, Betancourt said she thanked Chavez for leading mediation efforts that helped secure the release earlier this year of six high-profile hostages.
"We owe the first step to President Chavez," Betancourt told reporters. "When President Chavez began talking about us we felt there was a real possibility for freedom."
Betancourt, a French-Colombian dual citizen who was campaigning for president when she was kidnapped in 2002, urged the FARC to immediately release 28 high-value hostages, including politicians, soldiers and police as a humanitarian gesture.
"They have a historic responsibility, which is to free the hostages," she said.
Betancourt was rescued last July after being held captive for six years.
Before arriving in Venezuela, Betancourt visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.