DNA Test Shows Boy Is Child Of Missing Reporter
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Results of a DNA test on Friday revealed why leftist rebels failed to deliver this week on their promise to free a 3-year-old boy born in captivity: Little Emmanuel has spent the last two years not in a jungle rebel camp, but in a Bogota foster home.
The story of Emmanuel has transfixed Colombia since a Colombian journalist first reported in a 2006 expose book that he was born to one of the rebels’ most prominent hostages, former vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas, as the product of a relationship with one of her captors, reportedly a rank-and-file guerrilla named Rigo.
The story drew in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been negotiating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to release the child, his mother and another hostage. But what Chavez called “Operation Emmanuel” fell through this week when the rebels said operations by Colombia’s U.S.-backed military were preventing them from handing over the hostages.
On Friday, chief federal prosecutor Mario Iguaran said DNA tests performed on Rojas’ family members and an orphaned child proved that the boy known as Juan David Gomez is actually Rojas’ son.
The boy had been handed over at the age of 11 months by Jose Gomez, a peasant farmer who said he was the child’s great-uncle, to child welfare workers in San Jose de Guaviare, a town in a FARC-dominated zone of eastern Colombia. The baby had a broken arm and was sick from malnutrition and leishmaniasis, an infection common in the jungle.
The baby was rushed to Bogota for an operation to heal his arm, then sent to a foster home in the capital, one of 6 million neglected and orphaned minors placed under the state’s care. He lived there for two years in obscurity.
Until the hostage handover planned for late December. The operation was delayed repeatedly as observers including U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone and promiment Latin American leftist politicians waited.
Then prosecutors secretly received a tip that Emmanuel was no longer in the FARC’s control. Three days later, Jose Gomez emerged again, saying he was actually the boy’s father and wanted him back.
The government put everything together with the help of the 2006 testimony of Frank Pinchao, a former police officer who escaped from nine years in captivity to tell of the birth of Emmanuel, during which he said rebel midwives accidentally broke the boy’s arm in a risky jungle delivery.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a Chavez foe who had been humiliated by the prospect of a Chavez-brokered handover, announced on New Year’s Eve that Emmanuel and Juan David might be the same boy.
Jose Gomez then confessed that he had no relation to the child, saying a local FARC commander entrusted him with the baby in exchange for extra money he never provided. He said the FARC threatened him with death if he didn’t produce the child by Dec. 30, according to the Colombian government.
The test comparing the boy’s DNA to that of Clara Rojas’ mother proved Uribe’s hunch.
“Juan David is Emmanuel,” Igauran said Friday.
The result is a major embarrassment for the FARC, exposing its plan to release the three hostages as either an elaborate ruse, internal disarray or miscommunication between rebel commanders and the decentralized units where the hostages are being held. Colombia’s government celebrated even as Venezuela complained Colombia didn’t let Venezuelan doctors perform their own tests.
“The proves again that the FARC is lying to the world, laughing in the face of national and international public opinion by offering someone they don’t have and then blaming the government in a Machiavellian and macabre way,” Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said.
Iguaran said it would take another two weeks for a European laboratory to confirm the preliminary DNA analysis, after which child welfare agents would determine whether the Rojas family should be granted temporary custody.
Rojas’s brother Ivan said the Rojas family “looks forward to having him with us soon,” but their top priority remains the freedom of the boy’s mother, who has spent almost six years in captivity.
“If anybody has any doubt about the boy’s paternity, then Clara should freed so we can do a direct exam between mother and son,” Ivan Rojas said. “Only with my sister freed can we settle the issue once and for all.”