Chavez Prepares to Receive FARC Hostages in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed that he is preparing to receive three hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC released a communiqué on Tuesday indicating that they would release the hostages to President Chavez, and it is believed that the hostages are now on their way to Venezuela.
Clara Rojas, held by the FARC since 2002 (Univision)

Caracas, December 20, 2007, ( – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed yesterday that he will commence preparations to receive three hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC released a communiqué on Tuesday indicating that they would release the hostages to president Chavez, "or who he decides," and it is believed that the hostages are now on their way to Venezuela.

The hostages to be released are Clara Rojas, her son Emmanuel and Colombian Senator Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo. Rojas, former-vice presidential candidate and running mate of French Colombian citizen and ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was captured together with Betancourt by the FARC in 2002, her son Emmanuel was born in captivity. Senator Gonzalez has been held since 2001.

According to Colombian daily El Tiempo, intelligence sources indicate that the three hostages have been moved over the past few weeks from the jungles of Guaviare, in the heart of FARC controlled territory, through the municipalities of Guainía and Vaupés.

"The guerilla group appears to have taken all the precautions so that the same thing does not occur to what occurred with the proof of life, which were intercepted by the Military, when they were on they way to Caracas," the article continued.

Political analyst Leon Valencia believes the FARC have taken this into account, pointing to the time that has lapsed between when the communiqué was signed (on the 9th of December) and its release 9 days later.

"It is probable that the FARC are very close to handing over the hostages in Venezuela or close to the frontier of this country," Valencia said.

Fabrice Delloye, ex-husband of Ingrid Betancourt also confirmed Wednesday to radio Europe 1 that the hostages had been moved and were now outside the perimeter of the FARC security zone. Delloye said he had received this information from an "emissary that knows the FARC and has met with them recently."

Chavez had been working together with Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba for nearly three months, at the behest of the Colombian government, to achieve a humanitarian exchange of 45 hostages held by the FARC for 500 guerillas held in Colombian jails when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe abruptly terminated their mediation on November 21. Uribe's decision sparked fierce criticism from the families of the hostages and generated a diplomatic row between Venezuela and Colombia, with Chavez calling Uribe a "liar" and putting relations with Colombia in the "freezer."

The FARC communiqué said the release of the hostages was a "gesture of apology" to Chavez for Uribe's actions and recognition of Chavez's "good faith" and "colossal effort" for the cause of peace in Colombia.

Senator Córdoba told a press conference in Washington yesterday that she believed that if Uribe had not suspended Chavez's mediation that it was likely they would have been preparing "logistically to receive at least a group of 25 people" liberated by the guerillas.

Cordoba also said she had received death threats from "a high functionary of the Uribe government" however she assured she would continue working towards a humanitarian exchange. Cordoba confirmed she would fly to Caracas on Friday to discuss preparations for the liberation of the hostages.

Juan Carlos Lecompte, husband of Ingrid Betancourt also claimed that "If the mediation of Chavez had not been broken, by Christmas all of the hostages would have been liberated."

Lecompte welcomed the decision by the FARC and added, "We have always said that Chavez is the ideal person to achieve the liberation of these people."

Similarly, Iván Rojas, brother of Clara Rojas, told local radio in Bogota that the fact that the guerillas want to deliver the hostages to Chavez "appears to be proof that his mediation was being successful."

Rojas' mother, Clara Gonzalez said that if the announcement of the FARC materializes, "this will be the best Christmas gift that God can give after nearly six years of absence and suffering."

The FARC has said that the "immediate resignation" of Uribe will guarantee the liberation of the rest of the hostages.

"The immediate resignation of Uribe together with his government will guarantee the liberation, with life, of the prisoners through the signing of an humanitarian accord without more obstacles to avoid the exchange and persist in the insane, immovable and risky policy of forced recuperation," said an article by Raul Reyes, spokesperson for the Secretariat of the FARC, published today by news agency ANNCOL.

Reyes also referred to the Uribe government as "the worst government in recent times," and Uribe himself as a "mafioso, para-military, buffoon, rude person, slanderer and a liar."

Meanwhile tensions between Chavez and Uribe remain high, with Chavez rejecting recent accusations by Uribe, who claimed, without proof, that Chavez is "removing and installing presidents," in Latin America.

Speaking in Montevideo on Tuesday Chavez said "the voice of Uribe is the voice of imperialism… he is an imperialist puppet."

In turn Bogota has asked Chavez to "moderate" his language.