Farc hostage rescue fails

Posted in Latin America | 02-Jan-08 | Author: Ed Pilkington| Source: Guardian

A man looks at photographs of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), on a billboard outside the Mayor's office in Bogota.
An international rescue mission to free three hostages held by Colombian rebels broke down yesterday amid accusations of lying and bad faith.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela launched the mission and won international support, including the participation of the US film-maker Oliver Stone. Venezuelan helicopters sat for days on the edge of the Colombian jungle, ready to fetch two politicians held hostage for six years and the four-year-old son born to one of them while in captivity.

But late on Monday the rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Farc, which is thought to be holding up to 3,000 hostages in the eastern jungles, sent a message to Chávez saying that military operations by the Colombian government had scuppered any handover.

Chávez accused his Colombian counterpart, President Álvaro Uribe, of lying. "Uribe went to dynamite the third phase of this operation," he said.

Stone made a similar attack as he left Colombia at the end of the failed mission. "Shame on Colombia, shame on Uribe," he told the Associated Press.

The Colombian leader shot back, claiming Farc had broken its promises despite extensive guarantees from the government of security for both hostages and guerrillas. "The Farc terrorist group have fooled Colombia and now they want to fool the international community."

The breakdown adds to the mystery surrounding Emmanuel, the boy aged three or four who was fathered by a Farc rebel and born to one of the hostages, Clara Rojas. Uribe stunned observers with the suggestion that the boy may be living in a foster home in Bogotá. DNA tests on the boy and Rojas's mother are planned to verify the claim.