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Colombians Hope Chavez Can Help Free Hostages


Relatives of Colombians kidnapped by leftist rebels have traveled to neighboring Venezuela to discuss the plight of the hostages with President Hugo Chavez and lobby for a humanitarian exchange.

President Chavez has offered to engage in a dialogue with the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, whose captives include police officers, soldiers, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Betancourt's mother was part of the delegation headed to Caracas, along with school teacher Gustavo Moncayo, whose son, a soldier, has been in rebel custody for several years. Moncayo recently walked halfway across Colombia to plead for a prisoner exchange with the rebels.

President Chavez is expected to travel to Bogota in the coming days to discuss the hostage issue with his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe. Colombia has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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