No information on Betancourt, Venezuela's Chavez says
Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that has had no information since March 1 on Franco-Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
CARACAS, March 26, 2008 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said
Tuesday that has had no information since March 1 on Franco-Colombian former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
That was the day the Colombian military bombed and raided a camp of leftist
rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) just across the
border in Ecuador.
The raid killed the FARC's number two leader, Raul Reyes, and led to a
diplomatic row between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, which took Ecuador's side.
"I have had no news of Ingrid," Chavez said at a meeting with foreign
correspondents in Caracas. "We have lost all contacts, we know nothing. I hope
that we can re-establish contacts," he said.
Before Reyes' death there was "a degree of probability" that Betancourt
would be set free. "But later that probability dropped. It is not zero, and it
is not improbable, but the probability has dropped," he said.
The FARC rebels are still demanding the demilitarization of two Colombian
municipalities, though the details still needed to be worked out, Chavez said.
"What has to happen for Ingrid to be liberated? That is an excellent
question," he said.
In 2007 Chavez acted as a mediator in a proposed swap of FARC hostages for jailed guerrillas, but Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ended the negotiations in November.
Since the death of Reyes the contacts with the FARC have diminished, Chavez
said, though he expects this to be resolved.
Betancourt, now 46, was abducted in February 2002 as she was campaigning
for the Colombian presidency.
She is one of a group of 39 hostages the FARC is proposing to exchange for
500 imprisoned rebels.
In January FARC rebels delivered two hostages -- former legislator Consuelo
Gonzalez and Betancourt's vice-presidential candidate Clara Rojas -- to
Venezuelan representatives of Chavez.
And just days before Reyes' death the rebels released to Chavez four other
In Colombia, General Mario Montoya told Radio Caracol network that the
Colombian army had no information about Betancourt. He was responding to
regional news reports that Betancourt would be released because she was close to death.