French-Colombian politician is alive

17th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

BOGOTA, June 16, 2007 (AFP) - A jailed rebel leader freed at the request of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said kidnapped French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt was alive and well, and that he would soon travel to Cuba.

BOGOTA, June 16, 2007 (AFP) - A jailed rebel leader freed at the request of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said kidnapped French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt was alive and well, and that he would soon travel to Cuba.

Rodrigo Granda, the so-called foreign minister of Colombia's largest rebel group, told AFP that Betancourt was still in rebel hands.

"Ingrid is not dead," he said Saturday. "She is well in body and mind, but it is impossible to send further proof that she is alive because of military operations in the area" where she is held.

Betancourt was a senator running for Colombia's presidency when the group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), kidnapped her and a campaign aide on February 23, 2002.

Members of her family, many of whom live in France, prevailed on Sarkozy to persuade Colombian President Alvaro Uribe not to rescue her by force, for fear she would be killed.

At Sarkozy's request, Uribe released Granda from a 21-year prison sentence on June 4, when the rebel leader moved into the residences of Bogota's archbishop.

Granda is the second person to have reported seeing Betancourt, 45, in recent months, after a police officer, one of 56 rebel hostages, managed to escape and said she was alive.

After much speculation that Granda had been released to negotiate a swap of rebel hostages for some of 500 imprisoned rebels, he said that his FARC superiors had not authorized him to do so.

However, he reiterated FARC demands that Uribe clear two municipalities of all military presence, creating an enclave where rebel and government negotiators can safely agree a swap of prisoners for hostages.

And in a separate interview with AFP Granda said he would soon make a brief trip to Cuba, without indicating what he planned to do there. Since December 2005, Cuba has hosted exploratory contacts between FARC and Bogota.

"I'll leave (Colombia) and return later. I'm going to Havana, although I still don't have an exact date or time" for the flight, said Granda, adding that the FARC leadership had authorized his trip.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article