The children of Ingrid Betancourt appealed Saturday to the president of Colombia to make a "humanitarian exchange" that would free their mother, who has been held hostage for five years by Colombian rebels.
During a vigil Saturday outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Betancourt's son Lorenzo asked Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to consider offering the release of imprisoned leftist guerrillas in exchange for his mother's freedom.
He and his sister, Melanie, invited passers-by to light candles of hope for Betancourt, who has French and Colombian nationality. Hundreds of candles twinkled as darkness fell Saturday night.
"Humanitarian (concerns) must come before the war" against the FARC rebels, Lorenzo Betancourt said, appealing for a "humanitarian gesture."
The FARC, as the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are called, announced this week it would hand over three hostages to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez _ former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez; Clara Rojas, an aide to Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate, and Rojas' young son, reportedly born of a relationship between her and a guerrilla fighter.
"Suddenly, things are moving," Melanie Betancourt said, but added that the need for action was more urgent now than ever. "The day they (the three) are freed ... that day the world will not be able to deny that the FARC will have made a humanitarian gesture of good will. At that moment, I'm sorry, it will be necessary for the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ... to recognize that the ball is in his court."
That means, she said, "it is up to him to take the next step to finally make a humanitarian exchange."
The Venezuelan president had been trying to negotiate a prisoners-for-hostages swap until he called off the case last month by his Colombian counterpart, who said Chavez had overstepped his mandate by directly contacting the head of Colombia's army.
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, president of the Conference of Bishops in France, attended the vigil and urged church officials in Colombia to add their weight to the campaign, which has become an affair of state in France.
In a statement sent to his Colombian counterpart, the cardinal said French bishops were praying "for the efforts of the Colombian church toward negotiations and a peaceful solution."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the hostage drama with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Thursday, and has received Chavez at the presidential palace in Paris.