[News] Chavez Reiterates Call on Colombian Rebels to Release All Hostages

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 11 13:09:46 EDT 2008

Chavez Reiterates Call on Colombian Rebels to Release All Hostages

June 10th 2008, by James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

Mérida, June 10, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- 
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called on the 
new leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of 
Colombia (FARC), Alfonso Cano, to liberate all of 
the insurgent group’s hostages and advance toward 
a peaceful end to the Colombian conflict in 
coordination with other Latin American and European nations.

“The hour has arrived for the FARC to liberate 
all of those they have in the mountain,” Chávez 
declared on his weekly Sunday talk show Aló 
Presidente, assuring that “it would be a grand 
gesture, in exchange for nothing.”

Consistent with his declarations over the past 
year, President Chávez reiterated that the 
hostage release “could be the first step” toward 
a peace process in Colombia, since the conditions 
for peace are ripe in Latin America.

Chávez proposed that a broad coalition of 
countries including Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, 
Ecuador, France, Spain, Portugal, along with the 
Organization of American States (OAS) work 
together with Colombia to guarantee that peace 
accords are carried out between the Colombian 
government and the guerrillas, two parties which 
have been at war for more than four decades.

“Here, I ask for the world’s help... enough of so 
much war, the hour to sit down and talk of peace 
has arrived, we call on the world to seek this path,” Chávez said.

Moreover, the president expressed his opinion 
that “it must be said to the FARC” that 
subversive guerrilla groups are “out of place” in 
the Latin America of today. “Guerrilla warfare is history,” he proclaimed.

Worse, insurgents such as the FARC serve as an 
excuse for the United States “Empire” to 
“threaten all of us,” Chávez insisted.

The president asserted that peace in Colombia 
will take away the United States’ principal 
excuse for its intervention and maintenance of 
military bases in Latin America, specifically the 
possible military base in Colombia.

Chávez said he had intended to discuss this with 
the former FARC leader Manuel “Sureshot” 
Marulanda, with whom he and Colombian opposition 
Senator Piedad Córdoba had successfully 
negotiated the liberation of six high-profile 
FARC hostages in late 2007 and early this year.

However, the Venezuelan government lost contact 
with the FARC in March after Colombian armed 
forces attacked a FARC camp in Ecuador, setting 
off a regional diplomatic crisis and killing the 
FARC’s chief negotiator of hostage releases, Raul Reyes.

Then, the FARC announced last month that 
Marulanda, whose legal name was Pedro Marín, died 
of a heart attack in March, and Cano was announced as the new leader.

“Let’s let all these people go, I want to say to 
Cano!” Chávez called out in his first ever public 
statement to the new FARC commander Sunday.

Chavez’s pronouncements drew praise from Colombia 
and other Latin American governments, Venezuelan 
NGOs, and groups in support of the liberation of 
the FARC’s highest-profile hostage, former French 
presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos 
said that with Chávez’s declarations “we can feel 
calm and renew relations in good spirits for the 
benefit of both peoples.” He added that “if this 
is true and is converted into actions, it is very good news.”
Peruvian President Alan García said the 
announcements show that Chávez “is not the fierce 
devil that some paint him to be.”

“I congratulate him, I think he will be paid 
attention to because he has a lot of influence, 
he has been in some way close to the FARC, he has 
defended them,” García stated, referring to the 
fact that Chávez last year had supported the 
FARC’s campaign to be classified as a belligerent 
force rather than a terrorist group, as Colombia 
and its ally the United States contend.

The president of Citizen Control, a Caracas-based 
NGO, Rocío San Miguel, praised Chávez’s move, 
calling it a “180 degree turn in his policy” and 
claiming that the President had been “pushed back 
by pressure” from civil society groups.

However, Chavez has on several previous 
occasions, such as last January, made similar 
calls on the FARC to unilaterally release all 
hostages and to work towards a peace agreement.

Chávez has promoted the liberation of FARC 
hostages and a peaceful, humanitarian solution to 
the Colombian conflict since Colombian President 
Álvaro Uribe invited him into negotiations of the 
exchange of 39 hostages for 500 imprisoned rebels 
last August. Chávez was abruptly cut off from 
negotiations by Uribe last November, and the full exchange did not materialize.

Since diplomatic relations between Colombia and 
Venezuela soured, the family of Ingrid Betancourt 
and group who support the hostage´s release have 
pleaded for Chávez to be allowed to return to the negotiating table.

Monday, the International Federation of Ingrid 
Betancourt Committees (FICIB) in Paris praised 
the Venezuelan president’s announcements, saying 
“it is especially important that this call has 
been made by a person who we know has the respect of the guerilla leaders.”

“In a moment in which new hopes for a peaceful 
solution have appeared, we ask that the Colombian 
government and military not take any initiative 
that could put the process in danger,” the 
organization urged in an official statement, 
emphasizing that “President Chávez’s call is 
headed in a good direction and brings new hopes 
for all the families of those kidnapped.”

The French government issued a similar statement, 
calling them “positive” and that they would help 
find “a humanitarian solution that will allow the 
release of the hostages,” said a spokesperson for France’s Foreign Ministry.

Early last month, President Uribe authorized 
Colombian Communist Party leader Carlos Lozano, 
who also directs the weekly publication Voz, and 
a Colombian ex-minister Álvaro Leyva, to make 
direct contact with the FARC leader.

Lozano announced over the weekend that the 
process is “on a good path,” and that although 
they have not exchanged direct messages with 
Cano, “the channel of direct and trustworthy 
communication with Cano is open”, an achievement 
made in team with the Spanish, French, and Swiss governments, Lozano affirmed.

Chávez’s recent announcements are “realist,” and 
“transcendental” according to Lozano, who has 
advocated reactivating Chávez and Senator Córdoba’s mediation efforts.

also: Venezuela's Chavez: No Military Solution to 
Conflict  <http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3070>(January 15, 2008)
Source URL: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/
Printed: June 11th 2008
License: Published under a Creative Commons 
license (by-nc-nd). See creativecommons.org for more information.

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