Tens of thousands demonstrate for hostage release in Colombia

Other News Materials 29 November 2008 08:55 (UTC +04:00)

Tens of thousands of Colombians poured into the streets of the South American country's cities Friday to demand the release of more than 3,000 hostages being held, sometimes for years, by Colombian rebels, dpa reported.

"Freedom by Christmas," demonstrators demanded. Many wore ghostly white to symbolize their solemn message.

The massive show of protest answered a call by Ingrid Betancourt, Colombia's one-time presidential candidate who was kidnapped more than six years ago by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and rescued in June by an elaborate ruse carried out by the government.

But the numbers of protestors were disappointing compared to past demonstrations for hostages to be released.

Since her release, Betancourt, who also holds French citizenship, has been campaigning world wide to build pressure on the rebels to release all of their hostages - the latest appearance was in Madrid, Spain.

FARC is holding about 700 people. The other victims are distributed among smaller left-wing groups, right-wing militia and criminal gangs. Many militia are demanding horrendous sums of money for the release of loved ones.

FARC's hostages include politicians, soldiers and military officials whom they want to exchange for imprisoned rebels. But the outlook for a so-called humanitarian exchange appear slim at present.