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Chavez says he has Colombia proposal, international opinion to force Uribe's hand

Chavez says he has Colombia proposal, international opinion to force Uribe's hand

President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he has a proposal for easing Colombia's long-running conflict and predicted the country's U.S.-allied government would be forced to cede to international support for negotiations with rebels.
Chavez did not explain the proposal but said it has been endorsed by presidents including France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez. "All are in agreement except (Alvaro) Uribe," Colombia's president, Chavez said.
Chavez, who coordinated a mission Wednesday to pick up four hostages freed by Colombian rebels, said he hopes to "search for the path to peace."
One of the four politicians whisked out of Colombia's jungles by helicopter, former Rep. Orlando Beltran, said Thursday that the FARC "have begun to understand" that kidnapping is not acceptable internationally. He and the others thanked Chavez and called for more efforts to secure a broader swap of rebel-held hostages for guerrilla prisoners.
The Venezuelan leader said he was disappointed with reactions from the Colombian government sticking to its "immovable" conditions.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has proposed trading some 40 remaining high-value captives _ including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors _ for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
But the Colombian government and the rebels remain far apart on the conditions for talks.
A Colombian senator who has been a key go-between with the leftist rebels, Piedad Cordoba, appeared beside the freed hostages at a news conference and predicted that Betancourt would soon be free.
"Very soon we're going to have Ingrid," Cordoba said, without elaborating.
The four freed hostages said Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen who was kidnapped in 2002, has recurrent hepatitis B and is very sick.
Chavez earlier announced in a call to state television that he has international support for his initiative in Colombia, though he gave no details.
"There's a proposal that I'm making and is shared by an important number of governments that are in agreement," Chavez said. "Now Uribe is going to have to move that position. We're going to make him move it. It isn't going to be Chavez. I think humanitarian sentiment and the current of (public) opinion in the world are going to make the Colombian oligarchy change its position."
Chavez said OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Inzulza also agreed with his proposal.
The Venezuelan leader has irked the Colombian government by urging the international community to recognize the rebels as a legitimate armed opposition group, rather than calling them terrorists.
Chavez's intervention in Colombia's long-running conflict _ and the resulting hostage releases _ 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 rebels turned over the hostages Wednesday in the same southern Colombian jungle region where they released two others on Jan. 10. The operation was overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Some of the newly freed hostages urged the Colombian government to loosen its hardline stance toward the rebels.
"The solution is political, President Uribe," former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez told reporters alongside the other captives, warning that any attempts to rescue hostages through military operations would lead to bloodshed.


Updated : 2021-06-17 02:15 GMT+08:00