‘César’ and ‘Gafas’, the two FARC guerrillas that guarded Ingrid
Betancourt, three U.S. military workers and eleven Colombian policemen
were negotiating the release of their hostages when the Colombian army
rescued the hostages, their lawyers told El Nuevo Herald.
According to the lawyers, the guerrillas were planning a release similar to the one carried out by Colombia’s military intelligence; the guerrillas would tell the coordinates of the location where the release would take place. A helicopter would then take the hostages and the two guerrillas out of the jungle and the guerrillas would receive protection from possible retaliation from the FARC.
Before the rescue operation took place, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe during a speech told those holding Betancourt would be offered government protection and refuge in France.
The two lawyers had talks with both Colombian and U.S. authorities about the exchange and had contacted a U.S. attorney to supervise the deal would be made correctly. The attorney, Jeffrey Manciagli, confirmed to El Nuevo Herald having been contacted.
One of the Colombian lawyers told the paper a ransom fee of US$350,000 was agreed, when suddenly the Colombian army moved forward with operation “Jaque”.
Manciagli told the Miami based paper he was shocked when he heard about the operation and the arrest of the guerrillas. “My idea is that there was a negotiation, and that [the FARC
commanders] thought they were handing over those people just like they
had negotiated. But the government wanted all the credit,” he said.
Confused friends within the FBI called the two lawyers to congratulate them after the news broke of the release of Betancourt and the Americans, the lawyers say. “There are those who still can’t believe that we could not be there at the end,” they told El Nuevo Herald.
The two guerrillas are currently in jail and may face extradition to the U.S.