Colombian hostages’ families want Betancourt to represent them


Bogota : The families of the 26 soldiers and police officers being held hostage by Colombia’s leftist guerrillas have urged Ingrid Betancourt, who was rescued in July from the rebels’ captivity, to act as their spokesperson abroad.

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Betancourt “should be the foreign minister of the hostages and the families of the hostages,” Marleny Orjuela, speaking on behalf of the hostages, told EFE here.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest and fiercest insurgent group, has taken hundreds of hostages with a view to bargaining with the government for the release of their own cadres.

Former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt had spent seven years in FARC captivity before being released in a dramatic commando operation by the Colombian army in July.

Besides Betancourt, the Colombian army rescued US military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 Colombian police officers and soldiers in July.

Orjuela met Betancourt, who arrived in Bogota Saturday on the first stop of her Latin American tour to promote a foundation for the FARC’s hostages, and asked her to represent the hostages’ relatives.

“We want her to lobby internationally in all the European and South American countries, on all the continents,” on behalf of the hostages, Orjuela said.

On Friday, Betancourt participated in a march in Madrid to demand the release of hostages still being held by the insurgents.