FARC were tricked into handing the hostages over
Colombian hostage rescue story needs perfect ending
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The daring rescue of 15 hostages in Colombian jungles yesterday was breathtaking in its execution.
The leftist guerillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were tricked into handing the hostages over by Colombian military intelligence agents without a single shot being fired. When it was over, 58 guerillas were able to escape back into the jungle in the hopes some 700 hostages still held would be set free.
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages—alias Cesar—to believe they were going to take them to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas’ supreme leader, to discuss a possible hostage swap. So detailed was the coup that the hostages were even made to don warmer clothing to be prepared for the fateful meeting with Cano.
Worldwide media coverage focused on kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, while eleven Colombian police and soldiers were categorized as they have been all along, as “alsos”.
Betancourt and three American contractors were considered as FARC’s most valuable bargaining chips.
American contractors Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes were shown in a video on Colombian television.
It must have been a relief to their loved ones when it was reported that the three American hostages had arrived safely in Texas late Wednesday and were expected to reunite with the families and undergo tests.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, nowhere in the world have American hostages currently in captivity been held longer.
The reactions of their loved ones learning about the bold rescue were heartrending.
“Gonsalves’ father George got the news while mowing his yard in Hebron, Connecticut: “I didn’t know how to stop my lawnmower. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it.” (FoxNews.com, July 2, 2008).
“In Miami, Stansell’s stepmother Lynne said ‘we’re all still teary-eyed and do not quite have our wits about us.’”
“And in Massachusetts, Howes’ niece Amanda Howes said the rescue `redefines the word miracle.’”
The unfolding drama of the rescue could have made the best time in history for Che Guevara t-shirts, which were worn by the Colombian military intelligence agents who pulled it all off.
Betancourt’s description brought the world inside the helicopter taking the hostages to freedom: “The chief of the operation said, “We’re the national army. You’re free,” she said. “The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we were jumping up and down, yelling, crying, hugging another. We couldn’t believe it.”
“We wanted to have it happen as it did today,” explained armed forces chief Gen. Freddy Padilla. “Without a single shot. Without anyone wounded. Absolutely safe and sound, without a scratch.”
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose father was killed by FARC, led a celebratory news conference yesterday, where he said his government isn’t interested in “spilling blood” and wants the FARC to understand that he seeks “a path to peace, total peace.”
Earlier in the day, friends at Bogotá Free Planet had tipped off Canada Free Press to the breaking story.
“Big news about the hostages. Skype us as soon as possible,” Ernesto Pardo wrote in a late afternoon e-mail.
During the Skype call, he was able to give a minute-by-minute account from CNN coverage on television in his Bogotá living room.
Our eyes welled up when he saw the 11 Colombian police and soldiers get down on their knees to thank God for their rescue.
The rescue came as good news in a bad news-weary world.
But it’s a story without a perfect ending as long as 700 hostages are still held by FARC in the Colombian jungle.