Caracas, January 9, 2008 (venezuelanalyisis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Wednesday that that he had received coordinates from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for the site where the guerilla group says they will release two hostages, former vice-presidential candidate Clara Rojas and ex-legislator Consuelo Gonzalez.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro had made a formal request to the Colombian government to authorize a Venezuelan rescue mission Chavez said. "Hopefully first thing tomorrow, Venezuelan helicopters with the Red Cross will leave from some point in Venezuelan territory to look for these two Colombian patriots and finally attain their freedom," he added.
Chavez's comments come just over a week after a failed international humanitarian mission led by Venezuela for the release of Rojas, her 3-year-old son Emmanuel, the product of a relationship between Rojas and a guerilla fighter, and excongresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, and one day after Colombia's Foreign Minister, Fernando Araujo, said that Colombia would not allow any further international missions after the failure of the Venezuelan mission had "left a bad taste."
However, in a press conference only minutes after Chavez's declaration, Colombia's High Commisioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, confirmed that Colombia "will provide the necessary guarantees for the liberation," of the hostages.
"There is the best spirit of cooperation between the two countries, we advance in the operational tasks that will allow the liberation. The government reiterates that we are offering all guarantees so that the liberation of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez can terminate in a sucessful manner," Restrepo added.
The operation to rescue the hostages will be carried out with the joint participation of Venezuela, Colombia, and the Red Cross, Restrepo said.
Yves Heller, spokesperson for the Red Cross in Bogota confirmed that the operation would begin early Thursday, "However, we can't confirm or deny that the handover of the hostages will take place the same day due to the organization of the operation.," she said.
Last December 19 the FARC committed to hand over Rojas, Emmanuel, and Gonzalez to President Chavez or "to whom he designates" in recognition of his mediating role to achieve a humanitarian exchange in Colombia that was abruptly terminated by Uribe in November.
A Venezuela-assembled international delegation of representatives from Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, France, and Switzerland arrived in the central Colombian town of Villavicencio to facilitate the hostage handover, but the mission collapsed on December 31, after the FARC pulled out, saying stepped-up Colombian military activity made the safe handover of the hostages impossible.
However, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe alleged that the real reason the FARC did not want to hand over the hostages was because they did not have the child Emmanuel.
Uribe then launched what he described as a "hypothesis" that a child, Juan David Gómez Tapiero, placed in the care of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare in 2005, was Emmanuel. DNA tests of the child and the family of Clara Rojas later confirmed Uribe's hypothesis.
In a communique dated January 2, the FARC acknowledged Emmanuel was in the custody of the Colombian government, but accused Uribe of "kidnapping" him.
The FARC claimed they had placed Emmanuel "under the care of honest persons" in Bogota because, "national and international public opinion understands very well that Emmanuel could not be in the middle of the dangerous operations of the Patriot Plan, of the bombings and combat, the permanant mobility and contingencies of the jungle."
"Emmanuel was to be handed over, together with his mother, to President Chavez of Venezuela," the statement continued.
However, in an interview in weekly magazine, Semana de Colombia, José Crisanto Gómez Tovar, a campesino from the FARC-dominated eastern zone of Guaviare, assured he had recieved the baby Juan David from the guerillas in 2005 and had later handed him over to the Institute of Family Welfare.
Gomez said that around the same time that the FARC announced that they would liberate the hostages in December, an emissory from the guerilla group began demanding that the campesino return the baby that they had entrusted to him several years earlier.
Gomez, who claimed the FARC had made death threats against his family if he did not return Emmanuel before December 30, said he then decided to go to the Public Prosocuter's Office with his story.
A second DNA analysis carried out by genetic experts in Spain has also confimed that the child Juan David is Emmanuel. He is expected to be handed over to his maternal family after a series of legal procedures have been carried out.
"Emmanuel is in Bogota, thank God," Chavez said, "We ask God that everything turns out well and that soon Consuelo and Clara are free."
Gonzalez's daughter, Patricia Perdomo, who is waiting in Caracas, together with other relatives of the hostages told Venezuelan state television "We are very happy, very content knowing that – God willing – Clara and my mother could be free tomorrow."