Colombian bishop dismisses “rumors” about Ingrid Betancourt

.- Bishop Guillermo Orozco Montoya of San Jose del Guaviare told the Efe news agency this week that reports that former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who has been held hostage by the Marxist rebel group FARC for several years, was recently treated in a hospital in his region “are rumors.”

“I have the same information.  It’s all just rumors.  There is nothing specific,” the bishop said in response to reports Betancourt had been seen at a local hospital.

“If you consider the mentality of our people, who are very susceptible to rumors, and if you consider that one of those who were released said he saw her (Betancourt) three weeks ago, then you have to suppose that she is there,” the bishop said. “That was enough for people to start speculating,” he added.

Bishop Orozco also said he did not know if local residents had been threatened by the FARC and said that in any case, “people have always been very fearful of these militant groups and they are very concerned about their own safety.  Wherever there are outlaw groups, whether guerrillas or paramilitaries, people must be very careful,” he explained.

He also said he has sent letters to the commanders of FARC and that he is still awaiting a response.  “Once there is a spokesman, we will be willing to collaborate” to secure the release of hostages, especially those who are sick. 

Local residents in the town of El Capricho, which is located in an area strongly controlled by FARC, said Betancourt had been seen in public in recent weeks.

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