Clara Rojas, Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo

Colombian hostages free at last!

By —— Bio and Archives--January 10, 2008

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No one could have better described the joy over the news that two women hostages held by Colombian rebels had been set free than the Colombian radio network Caracol on its website today: “At last, they’re free!”

“At last” in this case was six long years and those simple words unleashed a stream of joyful tears across the land.

  “Here, it is like Christmas all over again,” Bogotá Free Planet publisher Ernesto Pardo, told Canada Free Press (CFP) this afternoon.

“After the disappointing failure of the hostage release on New Year’s Eve, many worried that something might go wrong this time too, and remained guarded until hearing word that the release had actually taken place.  Now that we know that it’s reality, there is this wonderful joy, not just that these two women are now free, but because the hopes of the family members of hostages still held now soar at an all time high.”

  Colombian celebrants hit the streets in droves, many of them in tears.

  Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who succeeded in his second attempt at negotiating the freedom of the women hostages with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known worldwide as FARC, delivered the news in a radio message broadcast across the whole of Latin America.

  Colombians arose to early morning news today that two helicopters were on their way to the jungle where the hostages are held by FARC.

  “Two Venezuelan helicopters carrying Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin flew into a southern swath of jungle this morning after Chavez’s government received the exact coordinates from rebel commanders whose units operate in the area.”  (washingtonpost.com, Jan. 10, 2008). 

  “Audibly emotional, our minister of the interior told me that we’re at this moment receiving Clara and Consuelo from a FARC commander,” Chavez said, recounting radio communication he had with Rodriguez Chacin as the operation was in motion.  “I said hello to the commander from the FARC.  I said hello to Clara and Consuelo.”

  “Chavez added: “They’ll come to this capital, where they’ll see their families.  We are waiting for them.”

  The women are Clara Rojas, who was kidnapped in 2002 along with the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, and Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo, a former Colombian member of congress taken hostage in 2001.

  Sadly, Ingrid Betancourt remains a FARC captive.

  But It must have been a day words could not describe for Clara Gonzalez de Rojas, Clara Rojas’ mother, who has been waiting in Venezuela for her daughter’s return since Christmas.

  “I never lacked faith and hope,” she said.  She added that she holds no resentment toward the guerrillas.  “I’ve never hated,” she said.  “My life is calmer and I’m in peace.  If I hated anyone, the most affected would have been me.”

  Over the Christmas holidays, the rebels promised to free Rojas and Gonzalez, along with a 3-year-old Colombian boy named Emmanuel, said to be the son of Rojas and a guerilla fighter.

  The guerrillas accused Colombia’s military of sabotaging the promised handoff, saying they couldn’t release the hostages due to military operations.

  But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s government said the guerillas reneged on the deal because they didn’t have the child hostage in the first place.

  Within days, results of a DNA test proved Emmanuel has been in a Bogotá foster home for more than two years, rather than being a FARC captive in the jungle.

  In 2001, FARC freed about 300 soldiers and policemen it had been holding in jungle camps in exchange for a handful of rebel operatives held in government jails.

  Responding to pressures from France, the Uribe administration released dozens of guerrillas in June hoping that FARC would reciprocate.
  But not long after the rebels were released, FARC was accused of murdering 11 civilian hostages in an isolated region of southwest Colombia, plunging the entire country into mourning.

  While their families celebrate the return of Rojas and Gonzales de Perdomo, FARC still holds some 46 high-profile hostages—including three American defense contractors and the French-Colombian Betancourt.

  As happy a red-letter day Thursday was, there are some who pray, “Please God, let them set my loved one free too.”

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Judi McLeod -- Bio and Archives | Comments

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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

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