Colombia denies paying ransom for Betancourt’s release

July 5th, 2008 - 1:20 am ICT by IANS  

Buenos Aires, July 4 (DPA) Colombia Friday denied allegations that a ransom was paid to secure the freedom of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three US contractors and 11 other hostages held for years by leftist rebels. Vice President Francisco Santos told Argentine radio station America that “it was a clean, most successful operation” and attributed reports of an alleged ransom of $20 million to “counter-information” from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The reports were made by French online news daily MediaPart and Swiss radio station Radio Suisse Romande (RSR), contradicting the account put forward by the Colombian government that its agents had infiltrated FARC and the 15 hostages through a clever ploy.

MediaPart reported that Bogota and Paris had promised political asylum for FARC members in France, and that Colombia and the US had paid $20 million ransom.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry also denied that Paris had paid a ransom to obtain the release of Betancourt, who also has French citizenship.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was clear, Santos stressed: “No ransom has been paid or is going to be paid.”

He noted that Wednesday’s rescue operation was “immensely sophisticated”.

Santos mentioned that “several prominent exiled FARC leaders and some of their main supporters” live in Switzerland, and said he was not surprised that the reports had their origin there.

“Switzerland, where FARC have a stronghold, is obviously starting to generate, to issue this type of information to generate counter-information and a little bit to balance the immense political defeat that (FARC) have suffered,” he said.

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