Colombian rebels on Wednesday provided a pickup location for two hostages they have held for years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said, and the Colombian government gave him the green light to launch a rescue mission.
Colombian Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said his government would "provide all the necessary guarantees" so the hostages can "return home as soon as possible."
He said the mission would be overseen by the International Red Cross.
Chavez said that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, sent him the coordinates to pick up Clara Rojas — an aide to former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt — and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez.
"This morning we received the coordinates there in the Colombian mountains where Clara and Consuelo are," Chavez said during a televised speech. "Hopefully, Clara and Consuelo will be free in the coming hours."
Chavez said Venezuela would send helicopters with officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross to San Jose de Guaviare, a town in a FARC-dominated zone of eastern Colombia.
"Hopefully early tomorrow, the Venezuelan helicopters with the Red Cross will leave from some point in Venezuelan territory to look for these two Colombian patriots and finally attain their freedom," he said.
Earlier mission failed
Chavez's statements came just over a week after a failed mission for the release of Rojas and Gonzalez, along with a 3-year-old Colombian boy named Emmanuel — the product of a relationship between Rojas and a guerrilla fighter.
The guerrillas accused Colombia's military of sabotaging the promised handoff, saying they couldn't release the hostages due to military operations staged by Colombia's military.
But Colombia's U.S.-backed government said the guerrillas backed out of the deal brokered by Chavez because they didn't have the child hostage as they'd claimed.
Results of a Colombian DNA test later proved Emmanuel has been in a Bogota foster home for more than two years, rather than held captive in the jungle.
A Colombian official said Wednesday that a second DNA analysis by the University of Santiago Compostela in Spain confirmed the boy in the foster home was indeed Emmanuel.
The official with the prosecutor's office spoke on condition of anonymity. The laboratory is expected to officially announce the results by week's end.
Gonzalez's daughter, Patricia Perdomo, told Venezuelan state television she was hopeful the announcement would help bring about her mother's release.
"We are very happy, very content knowing that — God willing — my mother could be free tomorrow," she said.