Caracas, November 15, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)
– Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hopes to have good news about the French-Colombian
hostage Ingrid Betancourt upon his visit to France next week. As principal
mediator in negotiations with the Colombian FARC guerrilla, Chavez is trying to
get proof that Betancourt is alive, and has insisted that a meeting with FARC
leader Manuel Marulanda might be necessary. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe,
however, refused to agree, threatening to have Marulanda killed if he comes out
The Venezuelan president made the announcement during an
interview on Wednesday, saying that he hopes to bring good news to French
President Nicolas Sarkozy for their meeting next week. Chavez will travel to France next
Tuesday to discuss the efforts for a humanitarian exchange with the FARC
"I hope I can bring proof that Ingrid is still alive. I
don't have that proof yet, but I hope to get it before arriving to Paris on November
20th," said Chavez yesterday. "I think I can take Sarkozy some good
French authorities and the family of Betancourt are very
hopeful about the recent negotiations between Chavez and representatives of the
FARC. Solidarity groups are organizing a march in Paris for next Sunday, along with
Betancourt's children, who claim that the current negotiations are the closest
they have ever been to arriving at an agreement.
"We are at a very important point. We have never been
so close to an agreement. It seems like we are in the final stretch," said
Olivier Roubi of the International Federation of Ingrid Betancourt Committees
President Chavez has also expressed his optimism about the
negotiations, but stated that a meeting with the top leader of the Colombian
guerrilla group, Manuel Marulanda, might be necessary to achieve the release of
"If a meeting can take place between Chavez and
Marulanda, Chavez can't come out of that meeting with his hands empty,"
said the Venezuelan president during an interview on Thursday. "I have a
lot of hope that that meeting can take place and that it can be the key to the
solution of the humanitarian agreement."
Chavez stated that he has been discussing the possibility of
such a meeting with President Uribe of Colombia, but said Uribe has the final word
on whether or not it can take place.
The Colombian President, however, indicated this week that
he is not willing to cooperate in the negotiations any further. In a speech before
graduating police cadets on Tuesday, President Uribe said his armed forces will
kill FARC commander Manuel Marulanda if he comes out of hiding for
Uribe vowed to increase military operations against the
guerrilla groups in the country, and suggested that he is not going to continue
to cooperate with Venezuela President Hugo Chavez' efforts to achieve an
"[Marulanda] sends messages that he can't attend
meetings because if he comes out of hiding he'll be killed. Well, he guesses
correctly," said Uribe in rejection of any kind of high-profile meeting
with FARC leaders. Uribe stated that his government has done everything it can to
facilitate the talks, but expressed opposition to allowing the guerrilla
leaders to get media attention.
"To facilitate the help of President Chavez we'd have
to stand by and watch as these criminals strut before the foreign press in Caracas," he said,
adding that the only people Marulanda has to meet with "are the judges and
police, to respond for 40 years of killing and other crimes."
President Chavez travels to France next Tuesday, and said that
the central topic of his discussions with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy
will be the humanitarian exchange. Chavez said that he believes Sarkozy might
be able to help achieve an agreement between the FARC and the Colombian
government in order to put an end to the hostage crisis.