FARC videos show Betancourt, American hostages alive
The videos, seized in a Colombian military operation, are the first proof of life of the hostages since 2003.
(Page 2 of 2)
The Associated Press notes that although the tape on which the American hostages appeared was labeled Jan. 1, a Colombian hostage appearing on the same tape said the recording was made on Oct. 23. This date would fit with the dates found on the hostages' letters.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One undated letter was from Howes to his wife, and another, dated Nov. 26, 2006, was his will, said the government. Another note was from Gonsalves to the military commander of the FARC, known as "Mono Jojoy", dated Oct. 23, 2007, and Betancourt wrote a letter to her mother, dated Oct. 24 2007. The government did not reveal details of the documents.
The seizure of the videos comes amid a bitter spat between Presidents Uribe and Chavez, whom Uribe had asked to negotiate with the FARC leadership for release of the hostages. But The Economist reports that Uribe cancelled those negotiations after Chavez directly contacted the commander of Colombia's Army, which Uribe had specifically asked him not to do. A war of words ensued.
Mr Chávez began by calling Mr Uribe a "liar and cynic" who "does not want peace", adding that Colombia "deserves a better president". Mr Uribe in turn accused his neighbour of seeking to "build an empire based on his [oil-rich] budget" and of wanting Colombia to be "a victim of a FARC terrorist government'. That prompted Mr Chávez to dub Mr Uribe "a sad pawn of the empire" (as he likes to call the United States), say that he was putting relations with Colombia "in the freezer" and recall his ambassador in Bogotá. He would have "no type of relationship" with Mr Uribe's government, he vowed.
The spat between Bogota and Caracas marks the worst relations between the two countries since a Colombian warship entered disputed waters in 1987, writes the British Broadcasting Corp. But the flare-up may have as much to do with Chávez's domestic troubles as it does with relations with Colombia. Chávez is fighting to expand his power in a national referendum on Dec. 2, and some polls indicate the vote is close. Opposition groups say that Chávez is looking to distract voters by exacerbating the rift with Uribe.
But Bloomberg notes that the spat is unlikely to harm economic links between the two nations, with one analyst suggesting that Chávez's barrage "is him covering up his embarrassment after Uribe fired him."