France has sent an urgent medical mission to Colombia to try to get access to Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen who has been held in the jungle for six years by the FARC. So far, Paris has not received rebel permission to visit their secret camps.Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate with dual French-Colombian nationality, was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by its Spanish initials FARC, while campaigning in February 2002.France has said she is very sick, suffering from hepatitis and other illnesses, and her son has said she will die within days unless she receives a blood transfusion.“We have the impression not only that she is alive, but that she is doing better than was said. But I could be wrong,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told LCI television.“In any case, we are doing everything as if we had to free her immediately,” he said, adding Betancourt’s health must have worsened. His source of information was not immediately clear.But Kouchner said France was standing by its mission to gain access to Betancourt: “We are not going to leave after 24 hours. … We are waiting for this signal from the FARC.”A French plane carrying a medical team arrived on Thursday and remains parked on the tarmac at a Bogota military base. The mission reportedly left without any prior agreement with the FARC to gain access to its jungle camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose official neutrality has been key to securing hostage operations with the FARC in the past, said on Monday it has had no contact with its rebel sources about the French mission.”I was in contact with a guerrilla captured recently who told me that she does not have hepatitis, but she has amebiasis. She has stomach pains and rejects food and naturally she is depressed and anxious,” Betancourt’s mother, Yolanda Pulecio, told a Peruvian radio station.“That relieves me in a way because hepatitis would be serious. I sure we will be able to finally come out of this soon,” she said.Betancourt, and three U.S. contract workers snatched by rebels in 2003, are among 40 key hostages held by the FARC for political leverage. Guerrilla commanders say they want to exchange them for jailed rebel fighters.Latin America’s largest and longest-running left-wing insurgency, the FARC have been driven back by President Álvaro Uribe’s U.S.-funded security campaign and violence from the four-decade conflict has eased under his government.But the FARC, aided by cocaine-smuggling, remain a potent force in remote, rural areas where the state presence is still weak. They freed six hostages this year under deals brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The future of Colombia Reports relies on your support. Please become a patron and support independent reporting from Colombia.