Son appeals for ailing hostage Betancourt's release
Paris news conference called after one of four hostages released by the Colombian rebels said Betancourt was "very, very sick".
PARIS, February 29, 2008 - The son of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid
Betancourt appealed for urgent action on Thursday to rescue his mother, whose
health was said to be rapidly failing after six years in captivity.
Lorenzo Delloye fought back tears at a Paris news conference called after
one of four hostages released Wednesday by the Colombian rebels said
Betancourt was "very, very sick".
"We have run out of time. My mother, the person that is dearer to me than
anything in this world, is dying," said Lorenzo, 19, who lives in Paris.
"I am asking the international community, and all those who are watching us
today to take action for the sake of the hostages, for freedom and for life,"
President Nicolas Sarkozy called for Betancourt's immediate release and
offered to travel to the Venezuelan-Colombian border to personally bring the
46-year-old politician back to France to be reunited with her children.
Concern over Betancourt heightened after former Colombian lawmaker Luis
Eladio Perez, one of four hostages freed on Wednesday, said Betancourt was
"very, very sick, physically and morally spent."
"The guerrillas have singled out Ingrid Betancourt, and she is being kept
in inhuman conditions. She has been very badly treated by the guerrillas. The
whole world needs to know that," said Perez.
Betancourt, who holds both French and Colombian citizenship, was seized in
February 2002 by rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
while she was campaigning for the Colombian presidency.
In November, Colombia released videos seized from rebels that for the first
time in years showed Betancourt sitting in the jungle, looking frail and gaunt.
Betancourt's ex-husband Fabrice Delloye called on world governments to
press Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to accept a humanitarian solution to
the hostage crisis.
Uribe has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the FARC, which are
considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.
"We call on heads of state all over the world to bring their support to
President Alvaro Uribe so that he can soon courageously accept and discuss
conditions for a humanitarian agreement," said Delloye.
Betancourt is the most high-profile of some 40 political hostages held by
the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla group that has been fighting the Bogota
government since the 1960s. The rebels are also holding some 750 civilians
held for ransom.
On a visit to Cape Town in South Africa, Sarkozy issued his strongest
appeal to date for the release of Betancourt and warned rebels that her
suffering was "a martyrdom that was being inflicted on France."
"I call on the FARC to free Ingrid Betancourt without delay, it is a matter
of life or death," said the president.
"I am ready to go myself to collect Ingrid Betancourt on the border between
Venezuela and Colombia, were that to be a condition."
According to Betancourt's family, she suffers from hepatitis, a recurring
viral infection that affects the liver and can lead to cancer and cirrhosis.
"If we don't act quickly, mother will die. This is an emergency," said
Betancourt's daughter Melanie Delloye, who lives in New York, said time was
running out for her mother.
"Mother is alive, but I don't know for how much longer and I know that we
have to get her out of there as quickly as possible," she told RTL radio.
The FARC on Wednesday repeated its demand for the creation of a
demilitarized zone, to host negotiations on a prisoner swap between remaining
political hostages and 500 rebels in Colombian prisons.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon warned "the FARC need to understand
the whole world will condemn them if they do not release Ingrid Betancourt as
soon as possible."
Fillon said Betancourt was in critical condition, saying "it is most likely
a question of weeks."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez late Wednesday made an appeal to FARC
leader Manuel Marulanda to move Betancourt to a safe location "urgently".
Perez said three Americans captured in 2003 were also faring badly and that
they would likely remain in captivity unless a FARC leader jailed for 60 years
in January gets his sentence reduced by US courts.