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Chavez calls on FARC to release Betancourt

Latest update : 2008-03-09

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Saturday urged the leader of Colombia's FARC rebels to free Franco-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt, in captivity for more than 6 years.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a public appeal to the head of Colombia's FARC guerrillas on Saturday to release high-profile French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

"From here I send a request to Manuel Marulanda. Manuel Marulanda, send us Ingrid. Send us Ingrid. On this International Women's Day, I expressly ask you to do it," Chavez said in a speech during a Women's Day ceremony in Caracas.

"When you can, when the conditions make it possible, liberate Ingrid Betancourt. She's the only woman who is still in the hands of the FARC. It doesn't make sense to keep her in the jungles of Colombia," Chavez said.

France has been pushing Colombia to try to negotiate a release of Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who was abducted six years ago. She is reported to be in very poor health in the jungle.

Chavez has been negotiating with the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to release prisoners it has held for years. His mediation gained the release of six hostages this year.

A top FARC leader, Raul Reyes, killed in a Colombian raid into Ecuador on March 1, was the main contact for French and other negotiators trying to get Betancourt and other hostages freed.

The raid sparked a weeklong diplomatic crisis that ended on Friday at a summit of Latin American leaders in the Dominican Republic.

Date created : 2008-03-09