Caracas, March 1, 2008
(venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called for
international mediation group to negotiate a humanitarian accord in neighboring
Colombia, after a successful Venezuelan led humanitarian mission secured the
release of four former legislators held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), on Wednesday.
During a telephone
call to state owned VTV Thursday, Chavez indicated that France, Ecuador, Brazil
and Argentina as well as the Organization of American States support such a
move. It is "essential" that Venezuela is part of any international mediation
group, because "the FARC have demonstrated that they don't believe in anyone
else," he added.
In a communiqué,
released minutes after the hostage handover the FARC said this would be the
last unilateral hostage release. The FARC reiterated their longstanding call
for a military free zone as a precondition for any further negotiations for a
humanitarian exchange of 40 remaining high profile hostages for 500 imprisoned
guerrillas. However, the Colombian government immediately rejected this
Chavez said the desire
for peace by the majority of Colombians and that the pressure of world opinion
would force Uribe to change his position.
"President Uribe is
going to have to change his position. Everybody is in agreement except for
Uribe, " he declared.
Speaking at a press
conference in Caracas on Thursday night, the former Colombian legislators, Luis
Eladio Pérez, Jorge Gechem, Orlando Beltrán and Gloria Polanco, also spoke out
in favor of a military free zone to facilitate a humanitarian exchange.
"I publicly challenge
President Alvaro Uribe to demonstrate the success of his policy of democratic
security and clear the military from the municipalities of Pradera and Florida
and after 45 days the Armed Forces can recuperate this territory," Perez said
after his liberation. "The solution is political, Mr. President Uribe," he
repeated twice during the press conference.
"If you persist in the
foolishness of insisting on a military rescue you are going to receive, Mr
President Uribe, 40 or 50 corpses. It is absurd to think of a military rescue
with the conditions that we had in captivity. There would be a massacre," Pérez
He revealed that the
four recently liberated ex legislators have a proposal to present "to President
Uribe, the President (of France Nicholas) Sarkozy and, of course, to President
(of Venezuela, Hugo) Chavez." This proposal would only be made public after the
three heads of state had been informed, he said.
Pérez who classified
the FARC as a "political military group who use terrorist practices" also
referred to former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, captured
by the guerrillas in 2001, who he said is in a "very bad state of health."
In a message released
in 2003 demonstrating Betancourt's proof of life, the former presidential
candidate indicated that she was opposed any form of military rescue, as she
feared a repeat of the tragedy that occurred in May that year when ex governor
of Antioquia, Gilberto Echeverri, and the del ex Defense Minister, Guillermo
Gaviria, died during a botched military rescue ordered by Uribe.
this position Perez said, however she is also conscious "of the high risk and
lack of commitment of the President of the Republic."
In contrast Betancourt
calls for a political solution to the conflict based on the Geneva Convention
and believes that "fundamentally President Uribe has to recognize the political
status of the FARC guerrillas," Perez said
Pérez also affirmed
that after an attempted escape, Betancourt, "remained chained up during the
night," and her captors, "humiliated her, obliged her to walk barefoot, tied
her to trees and rationed her food."
Ex congressman Orlando
Beltrán condemned "all terrorist acts,
wherever they come from. I condemn the terrorism of the FARC, of the
paramilitaries and the terrorism of the State." He pointed out that Colombia
"is the only country in the world that has disappeared an entire political
movement, more than six thousand leaders of Unión Patriótica were disappeared,
to speak only of this case."
Under a previous peace
accord in the 1980's the FARC demobilized and formed Unión Patriótica, however
after they laid down their arms thousands of former guerrillas were hunted down
by paramilitaries, backed by the Colombian state, and massacred, forcing them
back into the armed struggle.
Beltrán added that the
Colombian State "has to assume responsibility and understand that they must
create the conditions to achieve a humanitarian accord. I don't understand why,
when [the FARC] make these handovers in a unilateral manner, they [the
Colombian government] say they are not going to clear the military from a
centimeter of the national territory."
asserted, "It is necessary to reach the heart of President Uribe, to speak to
him, to explain, because he has to understand that if he does not clear the
military from Pradera and Florida, which is what the FARC ask, our comrades
will die in captivity."
"I am asking for a
humanitarian accord, because they have to place value on life, not on a piece
of land, not on a piece of territory," she said.
ex-legislators confirmed that they would participate in an international day of
action organized by human rights organizations on March 6 in protest against
paramilitary violence in Colombia. Uribe has condemned the protest scheduled to
take place in some 150 cities around the world, claiming it is organized by the