Mérida, December 30, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– After an announcement by the Colombian guerrilla that it would be willing to free six hostages in exchange for prisoners, Venezuela expressed its readiness to assist logistically and in the mediation, but the Colombian government has ruled out international participation in the issue.
Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba reported on Monday that she is hoping to establish contact with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) through the internet in order to concretize the new liberations that the group announced.
Representatives of the FARC contacted the opposition senator via email on December 21, where they announced that they would release six hostages and designated Cordoba to receive them.
Among the group of six is the ex-governor of the state of Meta in Colombia, Alan Jara, who has been captive since July 15 2001, ex legislator Sigifredo Lopez, detained since April 11 2002, and four members of the security forces whose identities have not been revealed by the FARC.
The FARC said they would deliver the hostages to the Colombian Collective for Peace, which is made up of intellectuals, politicians and activists and of which Cordoba is one of the leaders.
Cordoba said she is preparing a proposal to present to Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to revive the possibility of an exchange of hostages for FARC political prisoners. The hostages are part of a group of 28 that were kidnapped to achieve the liberation of 500 prisoners.
The Colombian government announced that the high commissioner for peace, Luis Restrepo would be the representative to meet with Cordoba. No foreign mediation would be permitted, aside from the Red Cross. The Colombian government justified its position saying that it would be putting its international relations at risk were it to allow foreign delegations to intervene in the liberation of the hostages and was concerned about the process turning into a “political spectacle.”
Cordoba had proposed a committee to facilitate the interchange, in which Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador could send delegates. She said she hoped Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez could assist, “but of course it’s necessary to consult the [Colombian] government because it’s a Colombian problem.”
The ex-president of Colombia, Ernesto Samper, had also requested the participation of the governments of Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil in the process.
Samper said the Venezuelan president could play an important role, and that the logistical capacity of Venezuela could be critical for the early release of the hostages.
“We shouldn’t rule out the mediation of President Chavez who already has helicopters and communication systems, such as in past liberations, it would help the task of securing all the hostages.”
The Latin American Association for Human rights also urged Uribe to allow those governments to contribute to the liberation of the six hostages and journalist Carlos Lozano argued that international mediation would provide a better chance of a smooth exchange, whilst the FARC could feel uncomfortable with the Red Cross, given the misusage of the Red Cross symbol in the hostage release ‘Operation Check’ in July this year.
The Venezuelan foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro said the role that Venezuela would play “would depend on what the Colombian government says.” He emphasized that Venezuelan participation “in the liberation of FARC hostages in the past has always had the endorsement of the Colombian government.”
“We respect any decision that the Colombian government has taken or takes in relation to this theme.”
Late last year six other FARC hostages were released in two shifts with the collaboration of Chavez and Cordoba over a three-month period. Chavez’s participation was at the behest of the Colombian government, but diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia plummeted when the Colombian government suddenly terminated Chavez’s mediation.
Earlier this month Chavez said he was available to work for the liberation of FARC hostages when he met in Caracas with Ingrid Betancourt, one of the FARC hostages released last July. He said he hoped the release of hostages would “open up the path to peace.”
Cordoba is hoping to meet with Uribe on January 5 and 6 to discuss the hostage exchange.