Handover of hostages in Colombia collapses as the FARC fails to deliver

December 31, 2007

For some as yet unexplained reason the delivery of three hostages in the hands of Colombian guerilla group FARC to the operation staged by President Hugo Chavez has collapsed. After Chavez himself had given a deadline of last night, the international group of personalities present in the Colombian town of Villavicencio to guarantee the integrity of the hostages has left that town, including former President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner and movie Director Oliver Stone, who made absolutely stupid comments about who the FARC are and what they stand for.

The FARC blames the Colombian Government for staging military operations in the area, while the Colombian Government is suggesting that the FARC may not even have the kid in its hands as it may be a child in the hands of Colombian social workers for over a year. Thus, once again, the FARC make President Hugo Chavez look very bad, the same way that they did in November when they even failed to provide proof that some hostages, such as former Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were even alive. After that failure, Colombian police found such proof in the hands of some guerilla members in the city of Bogota and the proof was dated at least one month before the talks collapsed at the time.

Hugo Chavez had created a whole media circus surrounding the handover of the hostages, making it seem like a complicated military operation which it did not have to be. Chavez kept talking about “search” and “rescue” when it was just a matter of the FARC finding a way to leave the hostages at a safe place to be picked up by the Venezuelan helicopters flying under the Red Cross flag. But something was clearly wrong, as the handover was postponed repeatedly without explanation. Reports are that former Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner, a Chavez ally, was so upset yesterday with the operation that he was ready to leave and had to be stopped by “panicky” Venezuelan diplomats. President Uribe had stayed away from the operation until today when he met with the international observers and agreed to allow a corridor to be opened for the hostages to be handed over, after extending the Chavez deadline yesterday. The FARC meanwhile, contends that the Colombian military was staging operations near where the handover was supposed to take place and made it unsafe.

As I have suggested before there is no reason for this to be so complicated, but the diverging goals of those involved: Chavez, Uribe and the FARC made it complex as each group wants the other to look bad. What is a mystery is why the FARC have so far left Chavez out in the cold each time he has tried to mediate the handover of some hostages. In the past, the FARC has broken truces with the Colombian Government, failed to return hostages when promised and once killed eleven Deputies who were in captivity and were supposed to be about to be returned. The Colombian Government recently released the Foreign Minister of the FARC to the French Government as a goodwill gesture. There has been no reciprocal gesture from the FARC, who had only agreed to release these three hostages, two women and a kid, despite having thousands of hostages in their hands.

For now, the whole thing has collapsed and made Hugo Chavez look very bad, after he tried to raise his national and international stature after the loss in the Dec. 2nd. referendum. For now, the whole thing has collapsed and it looks as if it will be a while before the same show can be staged again with everyone’s cooperation.

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