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Red Cross: Venezuelan helicopters to pick up 4 rebel-held hostages in Colombia

Red Cross: Venezuelan helicopters to pick up 4 rebel-held hostages in Colombia

Two Venezuelan helicopters landed in southern Colombia on Wednesday on a mission to pick up four rebel-held hostages who have spent more than six years in captivity.
The two choppers, bearing the International Red Cross insignia, were to refuel and take off again for a jungle clearing for the hostage handover.
Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had pledged to free four Colombian politicians: former Reps. Gloria Polanco and Orlando Beltran and ex-Sens. Luis Eladio Perez and Jorge Gechem.
The rebels are to turn the hostages over to officials sent by President Hugo Chavez's government, as they did last month with two other politicians freed by Colombia's dominant rebel band: Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.
Venezuelan state radio said a batallion of 60 FARC guerrillas would free the four in the same place where Rojas and Gonzalez were handed over on Jan. 10, the hamlet of La Paz.
It called the operation "Camino a La Paz," or Path to Peace.
"God willing they'll arrive today, and arrive well. We hope and that they can adapt themselves quickly to daily life together with their families," Daniel Polanco, one of three sons of Gloria Polanco, told Colombia's Caracol radio. He was 11 when his mother was kidnapped. "Such a kidnapping surely tears out one's insides."
His two older brothers were seized with his mother and released in 2004 after a ransom was paid and their father was later murdered, allegedly by the FARC. Polanco said they had bought their mother flowers, balloons, two or three changes of clothes and cosmetics "so she can be pretty the first days."
Aboard the helicopters Wednesday were Venezuela's justice minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin and the Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, as well as four Red Cross representatives and doctors to treat the hostages.
Polanco is said to have suffered ailments including thyroid problems, while Gechem has heart, back and ulcer problems.
The FARC have an ideological affinity with Chavez and have turned to the socialist leader to assist with freeing the hostages. The rebels have proposed to trade some 40 other high-value captives _ including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors _ for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
But they have been unable to agree with the hardline Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe on conditions to begin a dialogue.
The Venezuelan helicopters took off from the Venezuelan border town of Santo Domingo, said Yves Heller, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bogota.
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Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas, Venezuela, and Vivian Sequera and Toby Muse in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-08 08:22 GMT+08:00