The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they have picked up former FARC hostage Pablo Emilio Moncayo. Bad weather is preventing them from returning to the airport in Caqueta, where Moncayo’s family anxiously awaits to see him for the first time in 12 years.
Five seconds of footage, transmitted from the jungle by Telesur, show Moncayo walking in the jungle with release coordinator Piedad Cordoba, both beaming and the Colombian senator embracing the former hostage tightly.
In a live public statement, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace Frank Pearl criticized Telesur for filming the footage, as it breaks the signed protocol, which demands that the liberation not be recorded.
Pearl also criticized Cordoba and the Catholic Church for not preventing Telesur from filming the footage.
Heavy rain has prevented the Brazilian rescue helicopter, sent to pick up Moncayo, from taking off from the undisclosed jungle liberation location. The helicopter is expected back in Caqueta within the next few hours.
A video of Moncayo, released an hour or so before his release, shows him in apparently good health, wearing a brand new Colombian army uniform, anxiously pacing and checking his watch.
“I can’t imagine the happiness of them [his family] to see me after so many years, I simply can’t imagine,” Moncayo says in the video.
Moncayo’s father, Professor Gustavo Moncayo – who has campaigned for years for his son’s release – was overjoyed to see the footage of his son. Professor Moncayo said he was relieved to see his son in good health.
The FARC also handed over the coordinates for the remains of Colombian police officer Julian Ernesto Guevara, who died in FARC captivity in 2006. The guerrilla group previously released a statement released saying it would not hand over Guevara’s remains, as they were located in an area that is occupied by the Colombian national army.
31 year old Moncayo was kidnapped on December 21, 1997, after FARC guerrillas stormed the Nariño army base where he and 33 other soldiers were located. The 18 soldiers who survived the attack, including Moncayo, were taken by the FARC. The FARC later released 16 of the soldiers kidnapped in the attack. Moncayo and soldier Jose Libio Martinez remained in captivity. Martinez is yet to be released.
The FARC first announced they would release Moncayo and fellow captive and soldier Josue Daniel Calvo in April 2009. Negotiations between the guerrilla organization and the Colombian government stalled for almost a year because the two parties could not agree on the terms of the liberation. Calvo was finally liberated last Sunday.
Despite being shot five times and surviving two bouts of malaria and one of leishmaniasis during his time in a FARC jungle prison, 22 year old Calvo is in good health and recuperating with his family.
Hostage release negotiator, Senator Piedad Cordoba, is agitating for a humanitarian exchange of FARC hostages for guerrillas in Colombian custody. Cordoba said that the exchange must occur before the end of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe‘s term on August 7 this year, because negotiations with a new Colombian president “would be difficult”.
Uribe on Sunday open the doors to the possibility, saying that he was “not against a humanitarian exchange provided that the released FARC fighters do not return to the FARC.”
Developing story. Expect more.