Husband of FARC Hostage Accuses Colombian Regime of Hampering Release

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The husband of high-profile FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt said on Monday that Betancourt would have been released if the Colombian military had not raided the rebels' camp in Ecuador earlier this month.

"If they had not killed this guerrilla, she may even have been freed, because on March 14 and 15 they had planned to release 12 more hostages, my wife among them," Juan Carlos Lecompte told a press conference in Chile during a recent visit.

On March 1, the Colombian military attacked a FARC camp inside Ecuadorian territory. The attack killed 25 people, including one of the seven members of the Secretariat of the FARC high command, Luis Édgar Devia Silva, commonly known by the nom de guerre "Raúl Reyes". Reyes was the FARC's principle negotiator and had arranged the recent release of FARC-held hostages.

Colombia's attack sparked a regional crisis which saw the country's President Alvaro Uribe widely condemned for his country's illegal invasion of a neighbouring country. The crisis was resolved following resolutions reached at the Río Group presidential summit on March 7 in the Dominican Republic. The Río Group is an international organisation of Latin American and Caribbean states founded in 1986.

The Rio Group agreement signed and accepted by all countries, including Colombia, rejected the violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty, recognised Colombia's apology for its military aggression, and committed the signatories to ensure that such an incident never "under any circumstances," happens again.

During Monday's press conference Mr Lecompte also reiterated his confidence in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose negotiations with the FARC have secured the release of six hostages this year.

Mr Lecompte's wife, Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, was kidnapped in 2002 while campaigning as a candidate for Colombia's presidential election. She is being held by the FARC in the Colombian jungles and is, according to recently released hostages, in very poor health. The guerrillas hope to exchange Ms Betancourt and others they are holding for jailed FARC members.

Yesterday Mr Lecompte met with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and outlined a number of ways he felt the Chilean president could help in the process of freeing his wife and the other hostages held by the FARC. "The first is to support the humanitarian exchange that we have been trying for years to achieve. The bottleneck here is the refusal by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to agree to the creation of a demilitarised zone as demanded by the rebels," Mr Lecompte told the Inter Press Service (IPS).

According to Mr Lecompte, President Bachelet promised to work "quickly" and "efficiently" to obtain the release of the hostages held by the FARC.

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