Chavez, Stone humiliated by FARC


A mission spearheaded by Hugo Chávez and Oliver Stone to free three hostages held by Marxist guerrillas in the Colombian jungle was on a knife-edge last night after the rebels failed to deliver on the promised handover.

Venezuelan military helicopters bearing the Red Cross insignia sat for a third day in Villavicencio, a small town on the edge of Colombia's vast eastern jungles where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc, holds sway. They waited in vain for the guerrillas to tell them where to fly to inside the rebel-controlled zone to pick up the hostages.


A group of 10 international observers from Latin America, France and Switzerland included the unlikely late addition of Stone, a Hollywood director, who was invited to join the rescue mission only a week ago when he met Chávez in Caracas. Chávez quipped that Stone was George Bush's emissary to the operation; Stone in return called Mr Chávez a "great man". The two flew together to Colombia at the weekend on the presidential jet.

In an interview from Villavicencio with Associated Press, Stone said he had no illusions about Farc, "but it looks like they are a peasant army fighting for a decent living. And here, if you fight, you fight to win."

Stone has been forbidden to leave his hotel room on the grounds that it would expose him to the risk of being taken hostage himself - Villavicencio is riven with drug gangs and rightwing death squads. "This release could be a new start, a break in the ice. The important thing is that we build momentum so everyone can be released," Stone said.


Now why would they take Stone hostage? Could it be that FARC's word is no good? Judging by their failure to release the hostage at the agreed time, it would appear so. If Stone thinks Chavez is a "great man" he is not smart enough for this mission anyway.


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