Friday, July 4, 2008

Audacious rescue deals FARC a blow

We are so happy for this........... To see all these 15 hostages alive....... Ingrid is FREE!!!!!!
vdebate reporter

Audacious rescue deals Farc a blow
By Jeremy McDermott BBC News, Medellin
Ms Betancourt said her rescue was a "perfect operation"
In an operation of unprecedented audacity, the Colombian security forces have rescued 15 hostages from the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).
The initiative has dealt a mortal blow to the left-wing guerrillas' plans to secure the release of hundreds of rebels in prison.
"Thank you to the army, from my country of Colombia, thank you for your impeccable operation," said Ingrid Betancourt, the most famous of the hostages in guerrilla hands, as she landed in the capital Bogota to be greeted by her mother and husband.
"The operation was perfect."
Not a shot was fired by the Colombian security forces as they managed to free the most closely-protected hostages, guarded by the cream of Farc rebels.
'You are free'
The military operation, codenamed Check - as in "checkmate" - was the result of high level infiltration of the guerrilla army.
Farc have now lost, in one fell swoop, all the trump cards for their negotiations for a prisoner exchange and their principal diplomatic weapon to force the government into making concessions
"This operation... is without precedent and shows the high quality and professionalism of the Colombian armed forces," said Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos.
Somehow, double agents managed to persuade Farc's feared First Front leader, alias "Cesar", to put the hostages onto a helicopter, saying that they were to be taken to the guerrillas' top leader "Alfonso Cano".
It was only when the helicopter was in the air that the soldiers revealed their identity and overpowered the rebels on board.
"I did not realise what was going on until 'Cesar' was tied up on the floor, naked and one of the men said: 'We are from the army and you are free,'" said Ms Betancourt as she described the rescue mission.
Farc have now lost, in one fell swoop, all the trump cards for their negotiations for a prisoner exchange and their principal diplomatic weapon to force the government into making concessions.
President Alvaro Uribe, who has always refused to grant the guerrillas their precondition for talks, a large demilitarised zone in the south-west of the country, now has no reason to cede anything.
Farc in disarray
The international pressure which he endured, principally from presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, is likely to melt away.
The rescue also vindicates his tough policy against the guerrillas who killed his father, and it will allow him to continue unhindered in his plans to defeat Farc militarily and force them to the negotiating table.
This latest incident shows, yet again, that Farc are in disarray, reeling after a series of blows.
In March this year one of their top commanders, "Raul Reyes" was killed when the Colombian air force bombed a rebel camp within Ecuador, sparking an international row that has still not been resolved.
A week later another leader, "Ivan Rios", was murdered by one of his bodyguards, who collected the bounty offered by the government.
Then the most serious of all, the death from a heart attack of Farc's 78-year-old founder and leader, "Manuel Marulanda".

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Rescue boosts Uribe's standing

Good for Uribe. He has been intelligent enough not negotiating with the terrorist of Las FARCs. Congratulations President Uribe and Colombian people for this rescue....... was perfect.
vdebate reporter
Rescue boosts Uribe's standing
By Jeremy McDermott BBC News, Medellin

Ms Betancourt described her treatment in the jungle as cruel
The successful rescue of 15 hostages from the clutches of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) has had a massive political impact, nationally and internationally.
It has boosted President Alvaro Uribe and his tough stance against the Marxist rebels and silenced demands that the government make concessions to the guerrillas.
Now the perception is that the military defeat of the Farc is not only possible but inevitable, something that seven years ago would have been unthinkable, when the guerrilla army numbered more than 16,000 fighters and held sway in over a third of the country.
"We are at the end of the end of the Farc," said Admiral Guillermo Barrera, the head of the Colombian Navy.
Praise for president
The latest operation has shown what total disarray the Farc are in and how there appears to be little, if any, reliable contact between the ruling body and the commanders on the ground.
The rescue has vindicated Mr Uribe's uncompromising position with respect to negotiating with the Farc and justified his refusal to make concessions in order to gain the release of hostages.
He had been under pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to secure the release of Ingrid Betancourt - and in a rather more outspoken manner by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who called Mr Uribe, among others things, a "mafioso" and a "warmonger" for his refusal to sit down with the guerrillas.

Two Farc rebels were captured by soldiers during the hostage release
Now both leaders have softened their positions. The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, who accompanied Ms Betancourt's children as they travelled from Paris to meet up with their mother, spoke for President Sarkozy and said that France "admired what had been done".
President Chavez said he was "delighted" and "jubilant" at the successful rescue and was looking forward to welcoming Mr Uribe for a planned visit in the near future admitting that "we said some hard things. Between brothers such things happen".
In January, the Venezuelan leader called for the Farc to be taken off international terrorist lists and insisted the rebels be recognised as a legitimate belligerent force.
He has since backtracked on that, condemning the guerrillas for their policy of kidnapping and telling them that it was time to end the fighting.
Consummate politician
The successful rescue of the hostages will no doubt boost Mr Uribe's already staggering approval ratings, which hover at around 80%.
It will also perhaps secure any re-election plans he might have. President Uribe has already changed the constitution once, which allowed him to stand again as a candidate in the 2006 elections.
He has not ruled out tampering with the constitution once more and indeed one of the political parties that support him, Partido de la U, is currently working on collecting enough signatures to trigger a referendum on the matter.
Ms Betancourt also supported any potential re-election bid by Mr Uribe, when she said that the 2006 re-election of Mr Uribe, with his hard-line policies, was seen by the guerrillas as a great blow. When asked about a third Uribe term she said:

Ms Betancourt will fight for the liberation of the remaining hostages
"Why not? It is interesting. That does not mean to say that I would necessarily vote for him as perhaps I have more affinity with other candidates."
And what now for Ingrid Betancourt?
She looks set to pick up where she left off in February 2002 when she was kidnapped by the Farc at a rebel road block.
Then, she was campaigning for the Colombian presidency and since her release she has acted like the consummate politician she is, talking exhaustively with the media, praising the military, the government and the foreign nations that worked so hard on behalf of the kidnap victims.
She already has her new mission mapped out, fighting for the liberation of the hostages still in Farc hands.
"We need to fight for the freedom of the others, who are still in the jungle, still held by Farc," she said.
"There are a lot of people round the world who want to help us - fighting for the liberty of other Colombians."
The former presidential candidate, now with a profile and status the envy of politicians the world over, is in a very strong position to act as ambassador and activist for the release of the remaining hostages and the search for an end to the country's 44-year civil conflict.
Ingrid Betancourt will now no doubt be a permanent fixture on Colombia's political stage.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Sarkozy says Betancourt's death would be "murder" by rebels

Sarkozy says Betancourt's death would be "murder" by rebels
06.03.08 21:51
dpa )- If former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were to die in captivity, it would be "murder" by the leftist Colombian rebels who kidnapped her in February 2002, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Colombian television.
In an interview broadcast by RCN on Thursday, Sarkozy addressed Manuel Marulanda Velez, the top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), asking him to free Betancourt and the more than other hostages held by the rebel group.
According to Sarkozy, such a move would change the views of those who condemn FARC's activities and perhaps allow the group to be removed from lists of terrorists.
Bentancourt is the most high profile of the more than 700 hostages held by FARC and holds both French and Colombian citizenship. She has been reported to be ill.
"I am telling FARC boss, Manuel Marulanda, that (FARC) have on their shoulders the weight of responsibility for the life or death of a woman and that he has to evaluate perfectly the decision he is going to make. Because this woman is in life-threatening danger and could die in the coming days," he said.
"If he lets her die, it will mean he is responsible for a murder. If he releases her, it will mean he has made a humanitarian gesture, and that humanitarian gesture will necessarily provoke, trigger something else," Sarkozy said.
He recalled that Betancourt is a French-Colombian citizen and stressed that "the people of France are mobilized around their compatriot."
"She has lived in the jungle for six years. Her family, her children are asking for her return. She is currently in life- threatening danger. It is a national cause for France, which is not to say that it is not also necessary to release all the hostages unfairly kidnapped," Sarkozy noted.
"Perhaps thanks to the action of France six civilian hostages have been released," he said, referring to the release in the past two months of Betancourt's former vice presidential candidate, Clara Rojas, and five other former Colombian legislators who had been held by FARC for at least five years.
Sarkozy admitted that FARC number two Raul Reyes - killed Saturday by the Colombian military in Ecuadorian territory - was actively engaged in talks towards a hostage release.
"Mr Reyes was one of the spokesmen of FARC, but his death does not mean that there will be no discussion. FARC are on a list of terrorist organizations. FARC have to know whether they want to get out of that list or stay on it," he said.
"If they let Ingrid Betancourt die, of course there will be no discussion about that. If they release Ingrid Betancourt, perhaps a part of the world will look at them a bit differently," Sarkozy said.
"If Ingrid Betancourt is not released in a humanitarian framework they will never get off the list because, I insist, this would mean a murder in cold blood," he stressed.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chavez: Little chance FARC will free high-profile hostage

(CNN) --There is little chance Colombia rebels will free one-time Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt after that country's March 1 attack on a rebel camp inside Ecuador, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez discussed FARC hostages in Caracas on Tuesday.

The 44-year-old, who holds dual French citizenship, has been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for more than six years.

In January, FARC rebels in southern Colombia handed over two hostages to representatives of the Red Cross and Venezuela.

And in February, FARC released four others.

Those released prisoners who had seen Betancourt said she was in poor health.

Last year, Chavez helped mediate a proposed exchange of jailed guerrillas for FARC hostages.

But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ended the talks in November after accusing Chavez of exceeding his authority.

"Before the attack on Ecuador, we were giving a high probability of the liberation of Ingrid," Chavez said during a news conference at his palace in Caracas. "After that, the probability fell," Chavez told reporters.

Also on Tuesday, the Ecuadoran government asked the Organization of American States to help smooth over relations with Colombia over the rebel camp attack. The request was made after Colombia's minister of defense, Juan Manuel Santos, declared that his country had committed "a legitimate act of war" inside Ecuador.

The attack killed about two dozen people, including Raul Reyes, the second-in-command of FARC, as well as an Ecuadoran and several Mexicans. Colombia said it found laptop computers belonging to FARC that indicated Venezuela was funding the guerrillas.

Venezuela denied the charge, and Ecuador and Venezuela promptly severed diplomatic relations with Colombia. Ecuador called the move an attack on its territorial sovereignty.

Ecuadoran OAS representative Maria Isabel Salvador called Santos' remarks "almost a declaration of war that, obviously, has to be rejected."

On Wednesday, relatives of the dead Ecuadoran, 38-year-old Franklin Aisalia, will travel to Bogota, Colombia, to repatriate his body.

Colombia has accused him of collaborating with the FARC, a claim that his father on Monday rejected.

Chavez also denounced the accusation, noting that Colombia originally identified the dead man as a Colombian.

"Now [Colombia] says, yes, it's an Ecuadoran, but a terrorist," Chavez said Tuesday. "And if the father comes to reclaim his son, he's a terrorist, too."

In comments directed at Santos, Chavez said, "Tell the truth instead of talking garbage about this supposed computer from Raul Reyes."

An end to the conflict between Ecuador and Colombia would be a good first step in securing Betancourt's freedom, Chavez said.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

NO FARC - Videos

Some of the videos that show how cruel is LA FARC against their hostages.

The FARC killed 11 hostages

Frank Pinchao was able to escape from LA FARC:

Ingrid Betancourt

How the people in Colombia talks with their hostages, EXCELENT!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

4 hostages freed by colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela

Is very nice to see these people back to life.
vdebate reporter
4 hostages freed by Colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela
Associated PressFeb. 27, 2008 06:03 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela - Colombian rebels freed four lawmakers Wednesday after six years of captivity, the guerrillas' second hostage release this year as they seek to persuade the international community to strike them from lists of terrorist groups.The four former Colombian politicians were reunited with relatives amid tears, hugs and grasped flowers at Caracas' international airport."You've given me the opportunity to live again," freed hostage Gloria Polanco said when she was freed in a Colombian jungle clearing, thanking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for making the release possible.
The freed captives later met at the presidential palace with Chavez, who gave them a warm welcome next to troops standing at attention.In a video of the handover, officials who were sent to pick up the four in helicopters walked down a path and spotted the captives awaiting them on a rise.
The hostages descended an incline and wept as they hugged those sent for them. Polanco received flowers from a female guerrilla and sobbed "thank you, thank you."
The video of the handover was broadcast by the Caracas-based TV channel Telesur.
A guerrilla commander who spoke in the video was asked if the group was bombed by the Colombian military. He said that after his group received the hostages, no."But yes, troops were very close and that prevented them from being freed much earlier," he said, without specifying when his unit assumed control of the hostages.
The rebels handed over the four to the international Red Cross and a top official from Chavez's government. Two Venezuelan helicopters flew them to a Venezuelan border town, and then they flew on to their families in Caracas.
Polanco's three grown sons ran toward the plane as soon as it pulled up, with flowers in hand and wearing T-shirts reading: "Freedom for all." Polanco said seeing them again after more than six years was the happiest moment of her life.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has proposed trading some 40 high-value captives - including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors - for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
Another of the freed hostages, former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez, said he last saw Betancourt on Feb. 4 and that she was in very poor shape."It's a question of time. We need to take immediate action to obtain Ingrid's liberation," he said."I don't know how I managed to survive," said Perez, "I had a heart attack, three diabetic comas. I've had all the tropical diseases there are."Though some of the hostages were said to be ailing, top Chavez aide Jesse Chacon said their health "is much more satisfactory than we had hoped."
Another freed hostage, former Sen. Jorge Gechem, was gaunt and reportedly suffered in captivity from heart, back and ulcer problems."You've saved us practically from death," another freed hostage, former Rep. Orlando Beltran, said in the video, thanking Chavez.
In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the liberation provides "powerful encouragement" toward finding a "humanitarian solution to the hostage drama." Betancourt is a dual French citizen and a cause celebre in much of Europe.
Kouchner vowed to press for the freedom of the remaining captives, saying "the survival of the weakest hostages ... is in effect at stake."Chavez's intercession in Colombia's long-running conflict - and the hostage releases it has reaped - has raised the profile of the FARC, as it seeks to persuade the European Union to remove it from its list of international terrorist groups.
The FARC has been fighting for more than four decades for a more equitable distribution of wealth in Colombia, but has in recent years drawn wide reproach for its methods: It kidnaps civilians for ransom and funds itself largely through cocaine trafficking.
Colombia's government says it holds more than 700 people, either for ransom or political reasons.The four hostages were freed in the same region of Colombia's southern Guaviare state where the FARC released two other politicians on Jan. 10: Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.
The operations to pickup the hostages have been overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.Two of Polanco's three sons were kidnapped together with her and later released in 2004 after a ransom was paid. Her husband was later murdered, allegedly by the FARC.
As she held the flowers in the video, she said: "I will lay these flowers at my husband's grave, and another stem for each one of my sons."Her youngest son, Daniel Polanco, who was 11 when Polanco was kidnapped, told Colombia's Caracol radio that he and his brothers bought their mother flowers, balloons, two or three changes of clothes and cosmetics "so she can be pretty."
The FARC thanked Chavez for his mediation efforts in a statement on a pro-rebel Web site.After last month's release, Chavez called on the international community to recognize the rebels as a legitimate armed opposition group, rather than calling them terrorists.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt was a candidate to be the Colombian President, and was kidnapped in February 2002, 6 years ago. To be informed to the kidnapping of the Colombian-French citizen Ingrid Betancourt, go to the following link.

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Chavez's promised hostage release fizzles

Some friends in Venezuelans web forums were commenting that maybe Ingrid Betancourt, the key hostage, is not alive, and that is the reason this operation failed.
vdebate reporter.
January 2, 2008
Chávez’s Promised Hostage Release Fizzles, His Second Major Setback in Weeks
RIO de JANEIRO — Last week, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, seemed on the verge of one of his biggest triumphs to date. Now, amid renewed acrimony with the Colombian leader, Álvaro Uribe, he is staring at his second major political defeat in just over a month.
Using his credibility as a former rebel leader, Mr. Chávez orchestrated a plan to release three hostages being held for years in the jungle by a Colombian guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
Bristling with confidence, he assembled his allies in Latin America, including the former Argentine president, Néstor Kirchner, to witness a breakthrough in the decades-old conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC. The movie director Oliver Stone was part of a multinational group of observers that included diplomats from seven countries, including France and Switzerland.
Then on Monday, Mr. Chávez’s showman moment seemed to turn from history-making success into his latest failure.
For reasons that remain unclear, the FARC refused for four days to give the exact location of the hostages to Venezuelan helicopter pilots. Mr. Chávez read a letter from the rebel group late Monday that said the promised security conditions had not been met.
“This is an important defeat for Hugo Chávez’s regional agenda to promote his Bolivarian revolution and utilize his contacts with armed groups to win political influence,” said Román Ortiz, the director of security and post-conflict for the Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Bogotá research institute focused on Colombia’s armed conflict.
A successful mission would have been likely to have embarrassed Mr. Uribe, a conservative who has made little progress in negotiating the release of any of the several hundred hostages held in jungle camps, some for nearly a decade. Mr. Uribe has been skeptical of Mr. Chávez’s attempts to spread his Socialist ideology across the continent.
At the same time, the operation would have helped Mr. Chávez bounce back from a narrow defeat in a referendum early last month on a proposal that would have tightened his grip on power. For several days, at least, Mr. Chávez and Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, also managed to divert attention from the brewing scandal involving a suitcase filled with $800,000 in cash believed to be a secret Venezuelan donation to her campaign.
Mrs. Kirchner dispatched her husband to Colombia, and several other countries joined in a scramble to claim credit for helping to break the impasse in the only armed conflict in the Western hemisphere.
But the FARC, which appeared to want to help Mr. Chávez while showing up Mr. Uribe, did not cooperate.
“Clearly, Chávez did provide the best chance for making some progress, but it wasn’t enough,” said Michael Shifter, a vice president at the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group in Washington. “In the end, the distrust that the FARC felt for the Colombian government trumped any good feelings they felt for Chávez.”
Mr. Uribe accused the FARC of lying about its reasons for scuttling the promised transfers, even suggesting that the rebels did not have one of the three hostages, a 3-year-old boy named Emmanuel who was born in captivity to a rebel soldier and Clara Rojas, another of the hostages. Ms. Rojas and Consuelo González were to have been delivered with the boy to the Venezuelans.
Hopes ran high that the transfer of the three hostages would lead to wider prisoner exchanges for more of the 700 hostages reportedly still in guerrilla hands. They are believed to include a former Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen kidnapped in 2002.
France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been lobbying for Ms. Betancourt’s release since videos and photos were seized late last month that apparently showed her alive. The materials also appeared to show that three American contractors, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell, who were captured in 2003 when their plane went down in the Colombian jungle, were alive as well.
Now the failed mission has exposed Mr. Chávez to criticism of misplaced priorities. As he worked to mediate the release of hostages in Colombia, in Venezuela kidnappings are spiraling. Some estimates show that Venezuela has more abductions per capita than Colombia now, but the Venezuelan government has done little to tackle the problem.
The breakdown in the deal with the FARC led to a new round of harsh accusations between Mr. Chávez and Mr. Uribe. Mr. Chávez said he had “plenty of reasons to doubt Uribe’s team and their analysis and hypotheses.” He accused Mr. Uribe of trying to “dynamite” the operation, a claim Mr. Uribe denied.
Jenny Carolina González contributed reporting from Bogotá.

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