Thousands march in Colombia to demand Betancourt’s release

April 5th, 2008 - 5:37 pm ICT by admin  

Bogota, April 5 (IANS) Thousands of people have marched on the streets of Colombian towns and cities to demand the release of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who was abducted by the leftist guerrillas six years ago, Spain’s EFE news agency reported. The protest was organised Friday by the NGO Redepaz (Network of Initiatives for Peace and Against War) across several Colombian towns and cities to demand the release of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), country’s largest leftist insurgency group.

The group abducted Betancourt along with her running mate Clara Rojas during an election campaign in 2002. Though in January, Rojas along with five others were released on a humanitarian ground.

Betancourt, 46, who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship, is reportedly very sick, and was the focus of attention during the march in Bogota, the report said. The marchers were carrying placards “for life and liberty”.

She is among the 40 high-profile captives the FARC wants to exchange for hundreds of jailed guerrillas. The FARC said it would release Betancourt only after the government releases the jailed guerrillas.

President Alvaro Uribe said his government was ready for a prisoner swap but the first move must come from the rebels.

Friday’s protest came even as a French humanitarian mission was waiting in the country for a response from the FARC to allow them to provide medical care for the ailing Betancourt.

The NGO Pais Libre (Free Country), which organises mass protests for release of hostages, estimated that more than 2,800 people are in the captivity of various armed groups in the country.

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