A delicate operation to free three hostages held for years in the jungle by Colombian marxist guerillas appears to have temporarily collapsed. The Venezuelan-led plan to pick up two women hostages and a child born to one of them in captivity had been repeatedly delayed since last Thursday.
Foreign envoys, including Hollywood film director Oliver Stone, went to Colombia to help the mission but flew back to Caracas on Monday night.
Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner said the delegates would leave Columbian territory temporarily, but the mission would resume when all the conditions for the delivery of the three hostages were met.
The government in Bogota and the rebels have both accused each other of trying to scupper the deal. The FARC said intense military activity in the region made a handover impossible.
And, speaking on Venezuelan state television, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Columbian President Alvaro Uribe of lying, claiming he had sabotaged the handover.
But Uribe rejected the accusations and suggested the FARC backed off because they no longer have the child who was due to be handed over. He did, however, offer to suspend army patrols once the FARC revealed the location of the captives. “The FARC haven’t dared to fulfill their compromise of releasing the kidnapped because they don’t have the child, Emmanuel, in their power,” he said.
The three hostages are Clara Rojas and her son, who was fathered by a rebel fighter and is thought to be four years old. Former Congresswoman Consuelo Gonsalez was also due to be released.