Outcry over Uribe’s Decision to Terminate Venezuela’s Role in Hostage Accord

The unexpected decision, Wednesday, by Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe to terminate the mediating role of Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez in negotiations to secure the release of 45 high-profile hostages
held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has prompted
widespread criticism in Colombia.

By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

uribe_protest.jpg

Families of hostages held by the FARC protest Uribe's announcement in Bogotá, Thursday (AP)
Families of hostages held by the FARC protest Uribe's announcement in Bogotá, Thursday (AP)
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Caracas, November 23,
2007, (venezuelanalysis.com) - The unexpected decision, Wednesday, by Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe to terminate the mediating role of Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez in negotiations to secure the release of 45 high-profile hostages
held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has prompted
widespread criticism in Colombia.

Families of the
hostages reacted with shock and indignation as they gathered outside the
presidential palace in Bogotá on Thursday to protest Uribe's announcement with
banners and T-shirts emblazoned with calls for peace talks and shouting for
Chavez's return.

Jose Uriel Perez,
whose nephew, Luis Alfonso Beltran, was captured by the FARC in 1998, said, "We
thought it was very brave what President Chavez and Senator Cordoba did in
three months compared to what the government has failed to do in 10 years."

"Nothing touches this
government: not the deaths, nor our mourning, nor the pain the families of the
kidnapped live with," he continued.

Juan Carlos Lecompte,
husband of French-Colombian citizen and former presidential candidate Ingrid
Betancourt, held by the FARC since 2002, said Uribe had broken off the
negotiations in a "brutal manner."

Fabrice Delloye, ex -
husband of Betancourt, and father of her two children, Melanie and Lorezon,
agreed. "What outrages me about Uribe is his permanent hypocrisy. He is always
looking for a pretext to stall the exchange of hostages for the imprisoned
guerillas. He never stopped putting obstacles in the way of previous efforts."

Polo
Democratico Senator, Gustavo Petro said that with the measure the Colombian
government is condemning the hostages to death or indefinite captivity. "Those
who lose are the hostages. President Uribe cannot continue reacting
instinctively without taking into account the human life that he is
sacrificing."

The Comptroller General,
Julio Cesar Turbay, governor of Valle de Cauca, Angelino Garzon, and Colombian
ex-president Ernesto Samper Pizano (1994-1998) have also criticized Uribe's
decision.

In addition to the French
government, the National
Council for Peace in Colombia (NCP) and the Commission for Peace in the House
of Representatives have asked Uribe to reconsider his decision and meet with
president Chavez to continue dialogue.

The NCP has proposed three
way talks between the Colombian, French and Venezuelan presidents, to explore
ways to continue advancing the process for a humanitarian accord. However,
Uribe insists that his decision is irreversible.

According to Diego Quintero,
the brother of Alberto Quintero, one of eleven deputies kidnapped by the FARC
and killed in disputed circumstances in July, Uribe has demonstrated "no
political will to advance a humanitarian accord."

Uribe announced the decision
late Wednesday after U.S Ambassador William Brownfield sharply criticized
Chavez's mediation earlier that day saying, "We are 2 months and 22 days into
the negotiations, and we still don't have proof of life [of the hostages]."

Brownfield, formerly Washington's top envoy to Venezuela
before being posted to Colombia,
had particularly tense relations with Chavez, who has charged the US diplomat
with interfering in Venezuelan internal affairs.

The United States supplies
about $600 million a year in military aid to Colombia and is hostile to the
Venezuelan President, who US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice has described
as a "negative influence in the region."

Uribe cited a phone call by
Senator Piedad Cordoba to Colombian General Mario Montoya, during which Chavez
spoke to Montoya for approximately one minute and asked how many Colombian
soldiers were held captive by the FARC, as the basis for terminating Chavez's
mediation.

Chavez said he was surprised
to hear the news early Thursday morning. "We had advanced, we had positive
expectations, we had spoken with the families of the hostages, and now, for
some reason that does not appear as a reason to me, Uribe has decided in a
unilateral manner, without a phone call, without consulting us, nothing, to suspend
the work we have been doing," he said

However, he assured,
"I respect the decision of president Uribe, but I am very sad for Colombia. The
path was opening up, with difficulty, but there was a path opening up," he
said. "It was the beginning of a dialogue to try and bring peace back to Colombia."

Chavez said he hoped
the Colombian president would change his mind and reiterated his call to the
FARC to deliver proof by the end of the year that the hostages are still alive.
The French government has also repeatedly called on the FARC to provide
evidence that Betancourt and the other hostages are still alive.

However, Colombian
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, who said the negotiations would be resumed
by Luis Restrepo Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, argued that that proof
of life is not necessary to continue negotiations with the FARC. "Everyone
knows that apart from the 11 deputies that were assassinated by the guerillas,
they are alive. We do not require proof of life to make an exchange," Santos declared.

Polo Democratico, the
principal opposition party, accused the Colombian government today of having no
genuine interest in an agreement to liberate the hostages and has called on
unions, social movements, and human rights organizations to mobilize against
the government to urgently demand an agreement for a humanitarian exchange.

Under pressure today Uribe has announced that he won't rule out the
possibility of hostages being received by Chavez, French President Nicholas
Sarkozy, or the Red Cross, if the FARC decide to liberate them "unilaterally."