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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September 2003, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Daughter calls for Betancourt rescue
Ingrid Betancourt
Ingrid Betancourt was captured in February 2002
The daughter of Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian presidential candidate who has been held hostage by rebels for over 18 months, has said she believes it is now time for a rescue operation to free her mother - despite the risk that she could be killed in the attempt.

Ms Betancourt was kidnapped in February last year by left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). They demand that in return for her release a number of rebel prisoners are freed.

The former presidential candidate is one of about 50 high-profile hostages being held by the rebels.

In July a secret mission staged by France to secure Ms Betancourt's release went wrong. Since then the FARC have released a video in which Ms Betancourt calls for her release.

The video has prompted her 18-year-old daughter Melanie, who lives in Paris with her father, to back up her mother's pleas - even though until now the family has been against any rescue, fearing it will cost Ms Betancourt's life.

"I was amazed by the beauty of my mum - she looked so well, in such good health - but most of all I think what really has made a great impact for me is the power of her words," Melanie Betancourt told BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

"I don't know if it's easy for people living overseas to imagine, but the fact is that being a hostage in Colombia is very difficult.

"Your life is completely transformed. It's a terrible situation."

'Serenity'

The release of the video was the first evidence that Ms Betancourt was alive since May 2002, when another video had been sent out.

Alvaro Uribe
Alvaro Uribe says any rescue attempts will only be made "very carefully"
Melanie Betancourt said her mother's words in the video had given the family a better idea of what she wanted.

"She just saw everything with such clarity, even more than us who are over here fighting for her - it's as if she was our guide," she said.

"It's incredible because she's the one who's over there, she's isolated and everything. She's having such a hard life, and yet there's this sort of serenity in her every word and her every move.

"I was just impressed by the person she is and is becoming."

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has said his government will only act "very carefully" regarding any rescue attempt.

It is thought that the FARC will shoot their hostage the moment they become aware of any action being taken.

But despite this risk Ms Betancourt pressed for her rescue.

"It's a very strong message, because in the situation where she is - a hostage - they know that if there is a military intervention, the guerrillas won't hesitate to shoot them," Melanie Betancourt said.

"It's something very well known and I imagine hostages are even more aware of that than us.

"But she specifies that it can't be any kind of military intervention. It has to be something that is very well planned."

Exchange

In the video, Ms Betancourt stresses that any rescue must be authorised by the president.

FARC rebels
Melanie Betancourt believes the FARC are willing to negotiate
But she also calls for the release of the FARC prisoners, saying that: "The exchange is the moral obligation of a democratic state."

"She puts a strong ethical means to it, which is that everybody has an undeniable right to freedom," Melanie Betancourt said.

"In a way, an exchange between civil hostages and the prisoners of the FARC would be accepting the fact that their freedom has been taken away this way.

"She says that you have to fight for your freedom, even when sometimes you put your life in danger."

And she said that she was hopeful that - with both the botched rescue attempt and the video having been released within a matter of days - her mother's plight was now close to a resolution.

"What I think is that there is a will of communication coming from the FARC," she stressed.

"By letting my mum speak freely, I think they are showing that they are ready to communicate. I think it really is a sign that something is going to happen, that something is going to change."

SEE ALSO
Colombia cautious over rescue plea
01 Sep 03 |  Americas
Kidnapped senator calls for rescue
31 Aug 03 |  Americas
Uribe defiant after failed rescue
06 May 03 |  Americas
Colombia's kidnap culture
12 Nov 02 |  Americas
Video plea by Colombian hostage
24 Jul 02 |  Americas

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