Betancourt’s sister says hopes raised
From the Daily Journal:
PARIS (AP) – The sister of Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician kidnapped in Colombia in 2002, said Tuesday that a French envoy has met with Colombian rebels three or four times this year, raising hopes she will be released.
“With this envoy, and the fact that he is having meetings, we can perhaps allow ourselves to dream and hope that this won’t last much longer,” said Astrid Betancourt in an interview with The Associated Press.Ingrid Betancourt was a candidate in Colombia’s 2002 presidential election when a guerrilla group kidnapped her on Feb. 23 of that year. The 43-year-old remains a captive of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.Her sister said France decided at the end of last year to send an en-voy to negotiate with Ingrid’s captors because the Colombian government was not helping efforts to liberate her.“France realized that the supposed political will of the Colombian government didn’t exist,” she said by telephone from her Paris home.Last week, Colombia accused France of interfering in its internal affairs by negotiating with the reb-els for the release of Betancourt, who holds dual Colombian-French citizenship.A newspaper in Ecuador reported a meeting this month between French officials and the FARC in Ecuadorean territory.The French government did not deny the report, but stressed that it was working with Colombian au-thorities. Colombia, however, said it knew nothing about the encounter and it had not been authorized.The hostage’s sister said her family is in close contact with French President Jacques Chirac and several French ministers.Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also was Ingrid’s teacher at Sciences Po university in Paris. “Maybe there is a human sensibility, because he knows her well,” the sister said.She said government officials told her that their envoy has asked the FARC for proof that Ingrid is alive.She said the FARC said Ingrid was in good health but that they could not give proof that may lead the Colombian army to track them down. Betancourt’s supporters on Tuesday submitted a petition with nearly 100,000 signatures to the French Foreign Ministry to back efforts to secure her release.“We want to show that Paris is not acting alone,” the Paris Support Committee for Ingrid Betancourt said in a statement.The supporters are to meet with Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Wednesday. His spokesman, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, said the ministry is “totally mobilized to try to obtain the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt.”