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News: International

Proof that Colombian Hostages are Alive is "Thanks to Chavez"

Caracas, November 30, 2007 ( - Colombia announced today that authorities arrested three people presumed to belong to urban militias of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Bogotá late Thursday, who were found in possession of five videos and seven letters and a digital memory card with photographs demonstrating proof of life of five civilian and eleven military hostages held by the FARC, including French Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt and three US defense contractors. The videos and other documents showing proof of life were addressed to Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The son of Ingrid Betancourt, Lorenzo Betancourt, said the proof that his mother is alive is thanks to the mediation of President Chavez. However, he expressed concern over her health and asked that Chavez's mediation be renewed to secure her release as soon as possible.

The proof of life of the hostages appears only a week after Colombian president Alvaro Uribe unilaterally terminated the mediating role of Chavez and Cordoba, who were working to secure the release of the hostages and had assured that "proof of life would arrive any minute."

In an interview with Telesur, Codroba, who is now under investigation by the Supreme Court for "crimes of treason against the homeland and collusion," defended her role and said that the proof of life of the hostages demonstrates that the mediation of herself and the Venezuelan president was being undertaken with complete seriousness and responsibility.

Colombian Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo confirmed in a press conference this morning that of the five videos, four of them were filmed during October 23-24 of this year.

One video shows Betancourt, who was last confirmed alive in a video released in 2003. Another video, dated January 1, 2007, shows three U.S. defense contractors captured by the FARC in 2003 when their surveillance plane crashed in the jungle in the south of Colombia.

Among the seven letters was one written by Army Lieutenant Raimundo Malagón Castellanos addressed to President Chavez and dated 23 of October 2007. Another letter was from Betancourt, addressed to her mother Yolanda Pulecio and dated October24, 2007.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy told reporters in Paris that the authenticity of the material is "indisputable" and that the proof of life of the hostages "encourages us to redouble our efforts to obtain their liberation."

In a statement released today, the Committee in Solidarity with Ingrid Betancourt in Paris also said that the proof of life of the hostages demonstrated the effectiveness of the mediation of President Chavez and Senator Cordoba.

"Ingrid does not look her best," the statement continued, "this increases our sense of worry. It is urgent that Ingrid is liberated." The statement also called for the "re-initiation" of the mediation of Chavez and Cordoba, "together with the Colombian government."

However, relations remain "frozen" between Venezuela and Colombia after Venezuela recalled its ambassador from Bogotá to evaluate relations after Uribe terminated the mediations for a hostage exchange and accused Chavez of "legitimizing terrorism."

Chavez has responded by saying that Uribe has no political will for peace and used invalid arguments and lied to terminate the humanitarian exchange. He declared he will not have relations with Colombia while Uribe remains president.

Venezuela has not yet formally broken off relations, but Colombian business groups are worried that the dispute could affect trade between the two countries. Venezuela is Colombia's second largest trading partner after the U.S.

The Advisory Commission on Foreign Relations of Colombia will assess relations between the two countries on December 5 and has proposed that both Brazil and Ecuador facilitate a dialogue between Caracas and Bogotá.

The Ex-Foreign Minister of Brazil, Francisco Rezek said today that "Brazil has all the conditions to contribute" to a solution of the divergences between the two countries.

Published on Nov 30th 2007 at 8.51pm