With a large grin, liberated FARC hostage Pablo Emilio Moncayo ran into his waiting family’s arms after 12 years of separation, when the Brazilian helicopter that assisted in his liberation touched down in an airport in the south Colombian department of Caqueta Tuesday evening.
Walking from the helicopter hand in hand with his father Professor Gustavo Moncayo – who has campaigned for years for his son’s release – Moncayo raised his hands along with his father’s in a symbol of victory.
While Moncayo enjoyed an emotional reunion with his family, who presented him with bunches of daisies, release coordinator Senator Piedad Cordoba and Monseñor Leonardo Gomez spoke to the press assembled.
Cordoba explained that the operation had taken longer then expected because the occupants of the helicopter – herself, ICRC and church representatives – were obliged to make two stops. According to Cordoba they stopped for an hour in one location before flying to the town of San Vicente del Caguan where they waited another hour with a large number of guerrillas and the inhabitants of the town, before Moncayo arrived.
Cordoba said the liberation team and Moncayo ate lunch together in San Vicente del Caguan before departing. San Vicente del Caguan was the site where former Colombia President Andres Pastrana met with FARC guerrillas to attempt to negotiate a peace contract.
Cordoba and Monseñor Gomez both denied any knowledge that the moment of the liberation was filmed by Venezuelan television channel Telesur, an act that High Commissioner for Peace Frank Pearl denounced as a violation of the liberation protocol.
Cordoba said that as far as she was concerned, the only cameras that were present during the liberation belonged to the FARC.
Five seconds of footage, allegedly transmitted from the jungle by Telesur, show Moncayo walking in the jungle with Cordoba, both beaming and the Colombian senator embracing the former hostage tightly.
The FARC announced that this was their last hostage release, and from now on they will only participate in humanitarian exchanges of FARC hostages for guerrillas incarcerated in both Colombia and the U.S.
Cordoba is agitating for a humanitarian exchange and says 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.”
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.