Colombian rebels will not free Betancourt: guerrilla

11th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Colombia's leftist FARC rebels have no intention of releasing their top hostage, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

   BOGOTA, March 11, 2008 - Colombia's leftist FARC rebels have no
intention of releasing their top hostage, French-Colombian politician Ingrid
Betancourt, a guerrilla who turned himself in last week told Caracol radio
   "They won't release Ingrid for any reason. Let Yolanda (Pulecio, the
hostage's mother) dwell on that," said Pablo Montoya, who surrendered on
Thursday after killing Ivan Rios, one of FARC's seven topmost commanders, for
a 2.6 million dollar reward.
   Kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency,
Betancourt, 46, is the most prominent of FARC's hundreds of hostages, who
along with three US nationals are held as bargaining chips in the rebels' bid
to swap them with imprisoned comrades.
   Betancourt's fate -- a former hostage said recently she was very ill -- is
closely followed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has offered to
personally bring her back to France to her awaiting family should she be
   The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have released six hostages since the start of the year, including four lawmakers and Betancourt's former aide, to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-appointed mediator in Colombia's hostage crisis.
   Chavez and his leftist regime is sympathetic to the Marxist FARC and has in
the past run afoul of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is suspicious of
their relationship.
   The FARC last week turned over video recordings considered "proof of life"
of ten other hostages, but it was unclear whether any of them would be
released soon.
   Montoya turned himself in bearing the severed hand of Rios, whom he said he
killed along with his 17-year-old girlfriend, to claim the reward.
   Regarding three US government contractors captured by FARC after their
anti-drug flight landed in the Colombian jungle in 2003, Montoya said they
would get the same treatment as FARC commander Ricardo Palmera, who was extradited, tried and recently sentenced in the United States to 60 years in
jail for their kidnapping.
   "The Yanks will be convicted like Simon (Ricardo Palmera) was convicted,"
Montoya told Caracol.
   It was unclear whether Montoya will ever collect his reward money, since
some politicians believe it is wrong to pay a murderer while others say it is
the only way to entice rebels to betray their leaders.
   Former attorney general Alfonso Gomez was fretful fundamental rights might
be trampled by rewarding somebody's death, considering the death penalty is
banned in Colombia.
   "It was a reward offered for information, not an 'Old West' style reward
for bringing somebody in dead or alive," he said.


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