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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 20:43 GMT
Hand of Chavez in hostage release
By Emilio San Pedro
Americas editor, BBC World Service

President Hugo Chavez
The release can be seen as a victory for President Chavez
The left-wing Colombian rebel group, Farc, has released four high-profile hostages. The four, all former members of Congress, had been held by the rebels for over six years.

This latest move by the Farc is great news first and foremost for the hostages and their relatives, who had been campaigning for their freedom for years.

However, on the diplomatic level, this latest release of hostages is also good news for the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who has been in direct negotiation with the Farc.

For months, he has been embroiled in an increasingly bitter row with his conservative Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, over Mr Uribe's decision to remove him as an official mediator between the Colombian government and the rebels.

Accusations

The idea at the time of the appointment had been for Mr Chavez to help break the stalemate between the two sides over a proposed humanitarian exchange of hostages for rebels in government custody.

Alvaro Uribe
Colombia's Uribe has strong support at home

After all, who better than Mr Chavez, with his socialist, Bolivarian vision, to negotiate with the left-wing rebels?

But the partnership on this issue between the two ideologically opposed South American leaders was short-lived.

Mr Uribe found the Venezuelan leader to be too meddlesome and eventually removed him after accusing Mr Chavez of holding direct sensitive talks on the issue with Colombian generals without prior consultation.

Things have gone from bad to worse since then, with Mr Chavez accusing his Colombian counterpart of being a pawn of the American empire and threatening to break all ties with Colombia.

Mr Uribe, who enjoys the support of the vast majority of the Colombian public on this issue, has shown no signs of wanting to bring Mr Chavez back into the fold despite his success at negotiating with the rebels.

It seems unlikely that this latest unilateral goodwill gesture by the Farc will make any difference in that regard.





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