Venezuela-US Hostages Web
Chavez to help U.S. hostages
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he will try to facilitate the release of three Americans held captive by Colombia's largest rebel group — even though he has lost contact with the guerrillas.
Chavez confirmed his willingness to help a day after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the socialist leader had agreed to mediate a possible exchange of the U.S. defense contractors for imprisoned guerrillas.
"I told him that we're at their service, to try to help even though the issue is very complicated," said Chavez, speaking during his weekly television and radio program.
Richardson said that he plans to put forward a proposal for the release of Marc Gonsalves, 35, Thomas Howes, 54, and Keith Stansell, 44, in the coming weeks, but he did not divulge any specifics on how they plan to move forward.
The Democratic governor, who has helped facilitate the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea, Iraq and Sudan, traveled to Venezuela on behalf of the hostages’ families — not as an official U.S. envoy. Both Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have agreed to cooperate, he said.
FARC leader Ivan Marquez said that last month's assassination of rebel commander Raul Reyes during a Colombian military raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador has closed any possibility of new negotiations. Marquez's comments were posted Saturday on the Web site of the Argentine daily newspaper Perfil.