In Colombia, a mother presses for her hostage daughter's release
Yolanda Pulecio's relentless campaign to release her daughter and others kidnapped by rebels in Colombia has made her an international goodwill ambassador
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The latest effort, spearheaded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, came to an abrupt halt last month when Mr. Uribe "fired" him as mediator, though families of the hostages say a swap was closer than ever.Skip to next paragraph
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"One day we wake up filled with hope, dreaming of how we are going to hug her and give her all our love," Pulecio says. "And the next day comes disappointment, and it's usually because of Uribe."
Her abrasiveness toward a president who enjoys approval ratings of over 70 percent does not necessarily win her points with Colombians but she doesn't care. She's angry.
Pulecio's coffee table is scattered with different editions of Betancourt's memoir, published before her kidnapping under the French title, "La Rage au Coeur," (A Rage in the Heart). "That is what I feel," she says. "I feel that rage in my heart, toward the guerrillas, but mostly toward Uribe."
Pulecio's diplomatic efforts appear to be paying off, however. Despite having vowed repeatedly never to cede territory to the rebels, Uribe early this month made a public offer to the FARC of a 150-square kilometer demilitarized zone for 30 days in any sparsely populated area of Colombia to negotiate and carry out the exchange. The FARC, which had demanded an 800-square kilometer area, have yet to respond.
But Pulecio does not believe Uribe will actually go through with the exchange, accusing him of playing politics. "Every time there is some movement and an agreement seems possible, he pulls out the rug from under us," she says.
Friends in adversity
Despite a language gap, Pulecio and Ms. Rosano share mutual respect and admiration. In the most recent proof that their son and daughter are still alive – videos and letters seized by the government late last month – it is clear their children have also become friends, though they were separated into different camps.
For Pulecio, Betancourt's letter was both a great gift and a source of anguish. She carries a blurry photocopy she was given by the government in her purse. "That's my daughter there, with all her tenderness and all her love,' Pulecio says, her voice breaking.
Pulecio was moved to know that her daughter hears a national radio program called "Voices of kidnapping," where relatives can talk to their loved ones held in FARC camps. "I tell her about my day, I tell her about her children, about the life of [Betancourt's sister] Astrid, everything I can."
In the letter, Betancourt asks her mom to urge her siblings in France to send her messages thrice weekly. "This is the only information that is vital, wonderful, essential," Betancourt wrote. "The rest doesn't matter to me anymore."
Pulecio is worried about her daughter's loss of spirit. "I feel like she has very little strength to go on so that is why now the call [for everything to be done for her release] is so urgent," says Pulecio, who has retaken the political stage after retiring from an activist life that included a brief stint as a senator. But she says, "I don't act as a politician, I act as a mother."