Saturday, Feb. 23 will mark the sixth anniversary of French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt’s detention by FARC leftist rebels, with an unprecedented mobilisation campaign planned for this weekend.
Saturday, Feb. 23 will mark the sixth anniversary of French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt’s detention by FARC leftist rebels, with an unprecedented mobilization campaign planned for this weekend. Relatives of the abducted politician as well as the French government are hoping to put pressure on the Colombian authorities to secure her release.
The commemorative week begins with a concert scheduled for Friday, Feb. 22 in Paris, followed the next day by rallies in various French towns and cities, including Paris, Montpellier and Nice. A “human chain” is expected to wind its way from the Hotel de Ville to the cathedral of Notre Dame.
The bulk of the mobilization is planned for Paris, a city where Ingrid Betancourt is a “distinguished citizen”. And, as she has been several times in the last two years, the Franco-Colombian hostage will be displayed prominently – on a poster – on the Hotel de Ville’s façade. An information tent will be nearby for the French Ingrid Betancourt “support committee.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Paris dispatched French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the Colombian capital of Bogota and the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to reiterate that Betancourt’s release is a “priority” for France.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has led mediation efforts with the FARC and last month won the release of two hostages. But his moves have upset Colombia and the United States by showing political support for a guerrilla group that is recognized as a terrorist group by more than 30 countries and has waged a bloody, drug-financed campaign in Colombia for decades.
After meeting with Colombian President AlvaroUribe on Wednesday, Kouchner said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could join attempts by France, Switzerland and Spain to broker a hostage deal.
Despite the high level efforts to free the French-Colombian national, Betancourt’s family is not optimistic about prospects for her release. Her son, Lorenzo Delloye, has seized the anniversary commemorations to draw world attention to his mother’s detention.
“This is the last chance. Either we rush to initiate a dialogue or we find the hostages in a coffin,” he told the AFP news service. Barely 13 years at the time of her abduction, Delloye is now an adult, immersed in efforts to increase awareness and secure his mother’s release.
Betancourt was abducted Feb. 23, 2002, in Florencia, south of Bogota while campaigning for Colombia’s presidential elections.
Seven years later, her son is not able to hide his irritation over the lack of progress in hostage release efforts.
But unlike Delloye, Paris has had to be sensitive to Bogota’s apprehensions over deals with a group that it is considered a severe threat to national security and has adopted a more diplomatic language. Speaking to the press about his meeting with Chavez, Kouchner praised the “important role” played by the Venezuelan leader. But he was careful not to use language that would affront the Colombian government who have waged a decades-long struggle against FARC.
For Betancourt’s son though, there remains a hope that the Colombians and Venezuelans can work through their differences to discuss the hostage release issue.
Date created : 2008-02-22