Material compiled by our regional editor for South America, Cristiano de Sa Fagundes
To negotiate the fate of the FARC hostages - including French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez relied on the contacts of Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba. The Chavez-Cordoba relationship and their intervention in the hostage case sparked heated online discussions in the two countries. And the decision to put an end to the negotiations by the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has only fuelled the debate.
Sen. Cordoba entered FARC-controlled territory on Sept. 14, 2007, where she met the guerrilla spokesman, Raul Reyes. Recorded on this film, Reyes says FARC leader Manuel Marulanda is willing, for the first time ever, to meet the Venezuelan president. He suggests the meeting take place Oct. 8, the anniversary of Che Guevara’s death, and thanks French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his intervention in the case. In the end, the meeting never happened, because the Colombian authorities insisted that Marulanda leave the country with a visa and be escorted by the regular Colombian Army.
Extracts of Raul Reyes’s declaration:
I hope that the photos of Cordoba [smiling beside FARC soldiers] means that the end of the tunnel is close. The Colombians must make sure that the hostages don’t get killed in a rescue operation, or hung by guerrillas, to economise on bullets. Because for them, ammunition is worth more than the lives of the hostages, whether they’re civilians, police officers, or military men.
Piedad Cordoba must prove to the Columbians that the country’s political accord with Chavez will lead to solid progress.
Mrs senator, relieve us of our doubts!"
But President Uribe explained, in a speech in the Calamar region of neighbouring Bolivia, that he’s come to realise the true intentions of President Chavez and Senator Piedad Cordoba. Under the pretext of a humane agreement, they were attempting to export Chavez’s political project to Colombia."
I think that Uribe was under pressure both internally and at an international level. Now I don’t know what will happen. We have a significant Colombian population in Venezuela- emigrants and their descendants. And trade between our countries will become complicated, for example with the gas pipeline that was installed just before the conflict. It seemed that relations between Chávez and Uribe were improving. And then, suddenly, we find ourselves at a dead end again.”