San Jose is standing by for the possible release of French-Colombian FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, sighted - emaciated and ill - near this Colombian jungle town. FRANCE 24's Willy Bracciano and Eve Irvine report from San Jose.
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, held hostage by Colombia's Marxist FARC guerrillas for six years, may not be as ill as previously thought, but Paris still wants a doctor to visit her, French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday.
"We have the impression not only that she is alive but that she is doing better than was said. But I could be wrong," Kouchner told French network LCI television.
Earlier French authorities had said Betancourt was suffering from hepatitis and other illnesses and could require urgent medical aid.
Betancourt is being held at an unknown location in the southeast of the country by the rebels. According to Colombian reports and witness accounts, she had been refusing food and medical care for the past five weeks.
French mission on hold
A French medical and diplomatic mission was sent to Colombia last week and is waiting for permission from the FARC to visit Betancourt.
"We're waiting for news from the FARC," Kouchner told France 2 television on Saturday, adding France was "determined" to wait it out.
FRANCE 24’s correspondents visited San Jose del Guaviare, a town of about 50,000 inhabitants. Ingrid Betancourt was reportedly seen for the last time in a village near the town.
“We are waiting for the French humanitarian mission and some people are starting to doubt its arrival”, reports correspondent Eve Irvine from the town, capital of the Guaviare department.
Local hospital authorities say they are ready to help in any potential mission, but have had no notification about the French effort. “In case they need our services, we have all the medicine and products that may be needed,” Juan David Osorio, director of San Jose’s hospital, told FRANCE 24.
The Marxist rebels reiterated last week in a statement that any hostage release would come "if there is an exchange of prisoners." The group wants to swap its most prominent hostages, including Betancourt, for 500 jailed rebels.
Rallying support for Betancourt’s release
On Sunday, thousands of people took part in a solemn rally in Paris and some 20 other French cities to call on the FARC to release Betancourt.
Kouchner and French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy also joined the march.
Marchers wore white t-shirts and armbands and in the southern city of Toulouse, a clutch of white balloons was released as a "symbol of peace and hope."
In Colombia, mass rallies were organized across the country during the weekend to urge rebels to free hundreds of hostages.
Date created : 2008-04-07