International

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Chavez’s Bid to Free Hostages Falls Flat

January 07, 2008 05:32 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Commentators are still assessing the damage from the failed hostage deal in Colombia. Whatever the truth behind the failure of the hostage release, the fate of hundreds remains uncertain.

30-Second Summary

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The mission to release a trio of hostages held by anti-government insurgents in Colombia began on Dec. 28 amid international fanfare.

At the head of Operation Emmanuel, named after a three-year-old boy whose release it was meant to secure, was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His plan attracted the support of international figures and diplomats, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. film director Oliver Stone.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) pledged to release ex-vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas, her son Emmanuel, and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez.

Four days later, the kidnappers called the deal off, saying that their actions were constrained by continuing military operations in the area.   

The Colombian government denied the accusation and said FARC could not release the hostages because they no longer had Emmanuel.The two female hostages are likely to remain in captivity, according to observers. However, in a surprise development, DNA testing confirmed that a child in a Bogota foster home is almost certainly Clara Rojas’ son Emmanuel.

Rojas, Gonzalez and their relatives are not the only ones who suffer in a country torn by a 40-year civil conflict, poverty and warring gangs of drug traffickers.

Hundreds of hostages are held by FARC and various criminal groups. The BBC estimates that FARC alone has over 800 hostages.

Violence accounts for thousands of deaths every year. According to the CIA World Factbook, between 1.8 and 3.8 million people have been displaced from their homes. In 2004, Colombia was named the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere by the UN humanitarian affairs chief.

Although Colombia’s current president has had some success in curbing paramilitaries and insurgents, his country remains a focus of the world’s humanitarian watchdogs. 

Headline links: Operation Emmanuel stalls

Background material: A Chavez-brokered breakthrough amid fraught peace talks

Opinion & Analysis: No winners in failed hostage operation

Key Players: The hostages, Uribe, Chavez, and the paramilitaries

The hostages
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
The paramilitaries

Historical context: Civil conflict and the drug trade

Reference Material: US-Colombian relations

Related Links: Hollywood; press freedom

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