Colombia rebels ‘to free hostages’

Betancourt aide among three people likely to be handed over to Hugo Chavez.

A Colombian journalist says Rojas had a baby following a relationship with one of her captors [AFP]
A Colombian journalist says Rojas had a baby following a relationship with one of her captors [AFP]

Rojas’s mother Clara Gonzalez said “this is the
moment I have waited for” [EPA]

“I was warned that the release could take place or that Farc could announce the release of a group of hostages,” he said.

“This appears to be a nice Christmas gift, especially for the families of these people.”
Rojas’s mother Clara Gonzalez told local radio that “this is the moment I have waited for”.
Earlier this year, Chavez was asked to try to secure the release of 47 hostages held by Farc, but his mediation was called off after a dispute with Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president.

Betancourt aide

Last year, Colombian journalist Jorge Enrique Botero said in a book that Rojas, an aide to Betancourt, had given birth to a baby boy, Emmanuel, following a relationship with one of her captors.

Gonzalez was kidnapped in September 2001.
“The order to release them in Colombia has already been given,” according to the communique obtained by Prensa Latina in Bogota.

Colombia‘s government said it was reserving judgment on the Farc statement.


Colombia recently seized videos that appeared
to prove Betancourt was alive [AFP]

Luis Carlos Restrepo, Colombia’s peace commissioner, said the government did “not think it prudent … to make any statements for now as on previous occasions the Farc has announced such releases without them happening”.

Uribe recently offered rebels a temporary meeting zone for negotiations in the latest attempt to break the deadlock.
But the Farc insisted in its communique that he remove troops for a demilitarised zone about the size of New York City to facilitate talks.

Uribe has repeatedly rejected this proposal but news of the hostage release may renew pressure on him to relent.

Late in November, Colombian troops seized videos and photographs of Betancourt and three US hostages, providing evidence they may still be alive.
The first images of the hostages to be seen in years were found during the arrest of three suspected Farc fighters, officials said.

Mediation cancelled

Uribe called off Chavez’s mediation effort after accusing him of speaking to Colombia’s army chief in defiance of an order not to talk directly to military leaders.


“This appears
to be a nice Christmas gift, especially for the families of these people”

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president

This dealt a blow to hopes that the hostages would be freed in exchange for fighters held in government jails.

Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez in Caracas said that even if the prisoners were handed over to Chavez it would not necessarily mean that he would resume his role as mediator.

“The Farc rebels have said in the past that they would want to negotiate with President Hugo Chavez … Farc has the same ideology as Hugo Chavez and they trust him,” she said.

Uribe’s father was killed by Farc rebels nearly two decades ago. He has, in turn, attempted to defeat the rebels using a US-backed military force.
Farc is holding dozens of high-profile hostages including police officers, former members of congress and provincial governors.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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