Luis Carlos Restrepo, the Colombian government’s “high commissioner for peace”
Yesterday morning, Colombia’s media were reporting that the Colombian government’s peace commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo, was en route to Paris to offer French President Nicolas Sarkozy a greater role in mediating a hostage-for-prisoner exchange with the FARC. The Colombian government, likely rattled by the alarming proofs-of-life made public last Friday, was reportedly ready to offer Sarkozy a direct meeting with FARC leaders.
Restrepo did not end up boarding a plane yesterday. In fact, the French were not anxious to see him, or the FARC, right away. “Le Â«Monsieur PaixÂ» dâ€™Uribe ne vient pas en France,” reads today’s edition of the French daily Le Figaro.
“This demands a little reflection,” a French Presidency spokesperson said yesterday. “We must take some time to reflect and see what the best strategy is.” The spokesperson added that Sarkozy does not want to “rush into every door that opens up,” and that he “does not intend to find himself being instrumentalized” – that is, used. One senses a note of bitterness about the collapse of the Hugo ChÃ¡vez – Piedad CÃ³rdoba facilitation effort, which France actively supported.
For his part, Restrepo announced yesterday that “he had been given permission to hold direct talks with Farc representatives.” It is not clear, though, why this is news. As the government’s high commissioner for peace, or “le Monsieur Paix,” that is simply Restrepo’s job. But the FARC don’t appear to want to talk to Restrepo either.
Five days after the world awoke to the harrowing new images of the FARC hostages, it is clearer than ever that the effort to free them is horribly stuck. Perhaps the French are right: this is a moment for “reflection.”
Any reflection should be guided by the following two readings.
The first is hostage Ãngrid Betancourt’s letter to her mother, a painfully sad, beautifully written document that was included among the proofs-of-life captured last Friday. If you read Spanish, skip this and read the entire 4,200-word letter from the former senator and presidential candidate on the website of Semana magazine. It is a moving document, not just for the brutal descriptions of the conditions in which Ms. Betancourt has been living, but because of her gratitude toward those who have not forgotten the hostages, and her barely concealed anger at those who would readily sacrifice them for political objectives.