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Helicopters land in Colombia on mission to pickup hostages

Helicopters land in Colombia on mission to pickup hostages

Two helicopters sent by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez landed in Colombia Friday on a delicate mission to pluck three hostages from the rebel-held jungle.
"The operation has begun. With these two helicopters goes great hope," Chavez said as the two Russian-made MI-172 helicopters took off bearing Red Cross insignia and Venezuelan flags. "We're going to get those three people in the coming days."
Wearing the red beret and fatigues of his paratrooper days, Chavez was accompanied by American filmmaker Oliver Stone and a group of international observers to see the helicopters off.
Colombia's U.S.-allied government agreed to allow the helicopters into its territory to pick up former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, hostage Clara Rojas and her young son with a guerrilla fighter, Emmanuel. The women have been held captive for about six years.
"I'm hoping it works," said Stone, a fan of the socialist leader who said he was there to film "a documentary about Latin America and also about North America."
"There are some good Americans. That's why I'm here," Stone added after Chavez joked that he was an "emissary" from U.S. President George W. Bush.
Chavez said former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and the other observers would follow the helicopters to Villavicencio, about 75 kilometers south of Bogota, as soon as the Venezuelans receive word from the guerrillas about where to pick up the hostages.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is helping coordinate the handover, and Colombia's top peace negotiator, Luis Carlos Restrepo, said his government fully supports the mission and would keep its military from interfering.
For security reasons, Chavez said, the rebels have demanded that the Venezuelan pilots not be told where they will fly until they are airborne. The pickup could happen anytime this weekend, according to the latest information from those involved.


Updated : 2021-08-05 03:30 GMT+08:00