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Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hostages

Walking 620 miles into President Alvaro Uribe's heart

By Judi McLeod

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It must be a father's love that kept Gustavo Moncayo walking on pain-plagued feet in blistering sun to reach his destination of Bogotá today.

During the 620-mile trek, he walked across half of Colombia, a feat guaranteed to bring a smile to his son Pablo Emilio's face, no matter where he is or how precarious his condition.

No one held much hope that he would make it all the way to Bogotá when the 55-year-old schoolteacher started out on his long walk, with chains draped symbolically over his shoulder.

But Moncayo's dreams to rally support for a prisoner swap buns more brightly than the resplendent Colombian sun.

Gustavo Moncayo With no qualms for himself, Moncayo mortgaged his house and indebted himself to the tune of thousands of dollars in bank loans, all to underwrite the trek that began in his hometown of Sandona in Colombia's southwestern hills some six weeks ago.

Hot, dusty, tired and stubbornly keeping on walking on painful feet, his spirits were buoyed when he was greeted by several hundred well-wishers on the roadside.

It's been ten long years since Gustavo Moncayo has kept the image of his son, Pablo Emilio in his heart. Only 19 at the time, Pablo Emilio was captured in a 1997 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attack on a mountaintop army communications post. The rebels took seventeen other soldiers, and 10 were killed in the attack.

In reaching Bogotá, Moncayo had walked more than 620 miles. Aiming for Bogota's main plaza long before ever arriving there, he has vowed to set up camp, in plain view of the Congress. And there he says he will remain until he gets the government to agree to exchange imprisoned rebels for his son and 45 high-value hostages held by FARC.

Colombia, is a country of heart and it was only weeks ago that legions of ordinary Colombians dressed in white and waving white gathered en masse in protest to FARC holding hostages.

Never giving up on having his son set free, Moncayo believes in the power of one: "I decided to walk because I'm tired of the government' lies…The government and the politicians have done nothing for the kidnapped," said Moncayo as he walked through the town of Subia, just west of the capital.

The government and politicians have a problem. Reaching the status of folk hero, Moncayo has been mobbed by well-wishers in every hamlet he's passed through, and along the way of his long walk to Bogotá has managed to collect more than 2 million signatures in support of talks to free the hostages.

Colombians sprang into action to do something about their native land having one of the world's highest kidnapping rates. The Pais Libre Foundation, which helps families with loved ones taken away from them, estimates there are now more than 3,000 people in captivity in Colombia. Hostages include 3-year-old Emmanuel, born in captivity, and raised by FARC since his birth. Emmanuel's mother, Clara Rojas, along with her boss presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt was abducted by FARC in 2002.

The up and down of human emotions in the fate of those held in captivity is tragic. FARC announced that 11 state lawmakers it kidnapped five years ago were killed last month during an attack by "an unidentified military force". The government says that force was another rebel contingent, and that the guerrillas holding the hostages mistakenly believed a rescue operation was in progress.

With his feet bound up in salve-smeared rags, but with his heart still beating in passion, Moncayo has every reason to wait in Bogotá's main plaza.

That reason is a son he has not seen for 10 long years.

The image of 19-year-old Pablo Emilio has never faded in his father's heart.

President Alvaro Uribe: a father who walked over half of Colombia is waiting to see you in the plaza.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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