Mérida, September 19, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela will meet with the FARC spokesperson Raul Reyes in the coming weeks, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba announced yesterday after a meeting with the president. During the meeting, televised on the Venezuelan state channel, Chavez read excerpts from two letters he received from the FARC and showed a video in which Raul Reyes proposes a meeting with Chavez in Caracas in October.
"Just as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have accepted to come, President Chavez has accepted a meeting next October 8th," said Senator Cordoba upon leaving the meeting with Chavez in the presidential palace.
The Senator was designated by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to lead efforts for a humanitarian agreement with the guerrilla group. Since about a month ago, Cordoba has sought the mediation of President Chavez in an effort to obtain the release of 47 political hostages held by the FARC since several years ago in exchange for the release of hundreds of FARC guerrillas held by the Colombian government.
"What we are waiting for right now, in the short run, is a meeting with [FARC leader] Marulanda's delegate," said Chavez. "I am almost certain that that will happen in the next few weeks. I don't know where; if it will be here in the presidential palace. Raul Reyes has proposed it here on October 8th."
The meeting with FARC spokesman Raul Reyes in Caracas would be a preliminary meeting to an eventual meeting between the Venezuelan president and FARC leader Manuel Marulanda. Chavez said yesterday that he felt "optimistic" about the advance of the negotiation process. He also expressed his willingness to travel to Colombia to meet with Marulanda with the approval of the Colombian government, something that President Uribe has denied.
Chavez read some brief excerpts from the two messages he has received from the FARC; one from the Secretary of the FARC, and the other from Marulanda himself. The Secretary of the FARC repeated the previous demand for a demilitarization of certain regions of Colombian territory.
"There is willingness among the FARC to come to an agreement that would permit a humanitarian exchange of prisoners," said the letter. "But for that to happen, the withdrawal of troops from the municipalities of Paraderos and Florida is essential."
Chavez did not show more of the letter, stating that he had to use good judgment if he hoped to successfully reach an agreement with the FARC. For Chavez, the humanitarian exchange of hostages is only the "first step" in a process in which he said he hopes to "achieve peace in Colombia." The president assured that he "would not rest" in the search for an agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government.
Senator Cordoba also expressed optimism for the negotiations and stated that she believed peace could be reached in Colombia. Cordoba emphasized the changing political will on the part of the FARC and the genuine initiative on the part of Chavez.
"I see real and serious energy to advance with the humanitarian agreement, but, even more, to advance with a peace process," said the Senator.
Cordoba pointed out that for the first time in many years the FARC has accepted someone to work as a mediator in the conflict and stressed that the trust the FARC have in Chavez gives the peace process "an extraordinary impetus."