The ten political hostages released by the FARC after more than 12 years in captivity were subjected to “inhumane treatment” but are ready to rejoin the military, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday.
Following a meeting with the four soliders and six police, who were released by the rebels this week following months of negotiations, Santos said the men had told him they were “proud of being in the Armed Forces and [were] ready to continue fighting.”
The men, who were the last of the FARC’s security force hostages, also described the harsh conditions in which they were kept, said the president.
“They told me about the treatment they had been given, treatment which in many ways was inhumane,” said Santos. “The amount of illnesses they had endured. Suffering that lasted ten, 12, 14 years. When you think about what is must be like any person that is chained, kidnapped for 14 years, this has a big impact, very deep, on the soul or the heart. But on the other hand, seeing them free again, this is a very important reason to rejoice.”
Santos showed the press a pen that one of the liberated hostages, police sergeant Jose Libardo Forero, had given him as a gift. “It says ‘Juan Manuel Santos, president’,” said the head of state. “I got it as a thank you.”
The Colombian leader made a statement within hours of Monday’s release praising the rebels’ decision as “an important step in the right direction.” But it was “not enough”, he added, calling on the guerrillas to release all civilian hostages still in captivity, who are estimated to number in the hundreds.
For years, the FARC held the members of the security forces captive as political leverage and to exchange them with guerrilla relatives held in Colombian and U.S. prisons.
The rebels announced the planned release of some of the remaining political hostages last December, then went on in January to say it would release all ten and abandon the practice of kidnapping.