Last 10 Colombians in Uniform in FARC’s Power Liberated

Last 10 Colombians in Uniform in FARC’s Power Liberated
The prisoners were picked up by a Brazilian helicopter in a demilitarized zone
They were taken to the base in Villavicencio, where they saw their families, and then to Bogota
Photo Album: The End of an Interminable Kidnapping

El País: Liberados los 10 últimos uniformados colombianos en poder de las FARC
Andrea Peña reporting from Bogota April 3, 2012

Evening had fallen in Colombia when a helicopter came to view at the Vanguardia Airport in Villavicencio. This helicopter carried the six police officers and four military personnel kidnapped more than a decade ago by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) (FARC). At a quarter to six in the evening (a quarter to one at night on the Iberian Peninsula) the helicopter touched down. The doors came wide open and from them appeared the last members of security forces which were prisoners of the guerrilla organization: Luis Alfonso Beltrán, Luis Arcia, Róbinson Salcedo, Luis Moreno, César Lasso, Wilson Rojas, Carlos Duarte, Jorge Romero, Jorge Trujillo, and José Forero. Now they are free. But the suffering of the Colombian kidnapped has not ended: 405 private citizens are still captives of illegal groups.

In the midst of the Colombian heat, the men descended one by one with small bags on their shoulders and briefcases in their hands. Several years of mistreatment and isolation did not obscure the happiness of the faces of the liberated. They were no longer in chains or padlocked behind bars, as they were when Colombia and the world saw the proof of their survival which the guerrillas provided years before. Now they wore their military and police uniforms. One of them covered himself in a Colombian flag. Others wore discolored shirts and black sweatshirts. Tears of happiness could be seen in their eyes as they looked for their families from afar, but as yet they could only see anonymous police, military, and press members.

Unlike the other liberated, the people this group met on the tarmac were not their children, spouses, or parents, but rather white-coated military doctors who slowly lead them to a separate salon. There, in an intimate space, each could see only two of his loved ones. Families were disturbed and anxious throughout the almost seven hours the rescued spent in the salon with the humanitarian mission.

But the recently liberated did not arrive alone. A small tapir, a small species of wild boar, walked beside one of the kidnapped, José Libardo Forero, on the tarmac. Forero gave him to Alan Jara, who FARC liberated in 2009 and who is now Governor of the Department of Meta, who came to Villavicencio to receive his former companions in captivity. Minutes later, an emotional Jara said to the local press, “He gave me an animal and instructions for taking care of him. And he greeted me in Russian!” When the two were captives together, Jara taught some of the language to his cellmates. Another two of the liberated arrived with exotic multicolored birds who were surely their pets throughout their days of solitude.

From Bogota, President Juan Manuel Santos gave an address at 7:00 PM Colombian time welcoming the rescued to liberty. He said that “this is a gesture [by FARC] which we value,” but “it is not sufficient.” He demanded FARC liberate the civilian captives in its power: “The moment the government believes there are sufficient guarantees to initiate a process leading to the end of the conflict, we will do it,” he emphasized.

A week of liberations began on Monday at 10:30 in the morning (seven hours behind peninsular Spain) when a Brazilian Cougar helicopter brought ex-Senator Piedad Córdoba, Gloria Amparo Sánchez of the NGO Colombians for Peace (which is mediating the liberation process between the government and the rebel group), and two representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who received the 10 kidnapped from FARC’s hands.

Families of the captives were nervous and tense the entire day. Then the aircraft took off from the Vanguardia Airport in Villavicencio two hours late due to bad weather. Although at first it was said that the liberations would occur on two different days (Monday and Wednesday), at noon Gloria Cuartas of Colombians for Peace confirmed that all the captives would be liberated Monday.

Six hours after the humanitarian mission began, María Cristina Rivera, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, gave the first news of the liberated captives: “FARC-EP has liberated four military personnel and six police officers, every member of the group they’d announced would be freed, between the borders of Meta and Guaviare,” she said from Villavicencio.

Colombia

10 Liberated by FARC
Top Row, From Left to Right: Police Officers Jorge Trujillo Solarte, Jorge Humberto Romero, José Libardo Forero, Wilson Rojas Medina, and Carlos José Duarte.
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Police Officer César Augusto Lasso Monsalve and Military Officers Luis Alfonso Beltrán Franco, Robinson Salcedo Guarín, Luis Alfredo Moreno Chagüeza, and Luis Arturo Arcía. Photo from EFE.

FARC’s 10 Longest Hostages
Six police officers and four military personnel formed the group of kidnapped which FARC liberated
El País: Los 10 rehenes más antiguos de las FARC
Wire Report from Madrid April 2, 2012

The FARC guerrillas have just liberated the last 10 members of Colombian security forces that were held captive. They are:

Luis Alfonso Beltrán Francos, Vice First Sergeant, 42 years old, oneo f the four military personnel liberated hours ago. Kidnapped March 3, 1998 in FARC’s assault on El Billar (Caquetá) in the south of the country. Beltrán Francos has been a captive for 14 years, longer than any other hostage. He left neither a wife nor children. He belonged to Mobile Brigade No. 3, like Luis Arturo Arcia, his companion in chains who has also been set free.

Luis Arturo Arcia, Vice First Sergeant, shared the same fate as Beltrán Francos during the March 3, 1998 assault on El Billar, a district in Cartagena del Chairá (Caquetá). That guerrilla attack caused the death of 65 soldiers. Arcía is now 39.

César Augusto Lasso, 45 years of age, one of six FARC police officers FARC liberated during this operation. This First Sergeant was kidnapped November 1, 1998 in Mitú (Vaupés) in the west of the country, close to the Brazilian border. 23 government agents died in this guerrilla offensive. Lasso has never met the youngest of his three children.

Robinson Salcedo Guarin, Vice First Sergeant, was captured August 3, 1998 in Miraflores in the department (region) of Guaviare. FARC attacked an anti-narcotic base. The assault ended the lives of 40 policemen and military personnel. He hails from Tolima, where he survived the tragedy set loose in November 1985 when the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano erupted. He is called El Mechudo (The Long-Haired) because he promised not to cut his hair until he was liberated.

Luis Alfredo Moreno Chagüezá, currently a sergeant, but a First Corporal prior to his abduction, also fell into FARC’s hands during the attack on Miraflores. According to testimony from his fellow rescued prisoners, Moreno Chagüezá dedicated much of his time as a captive to embroidery and writing.

Wilson Rojas Medina, Intendant (member of the police leadership), was captured in the brutal assault on a police station in the town of Puerto Rico (in Meta) in the center of the country July 11, 1999. Rojas Medina has a 13-year old daughter. Five of the police who were liberated in this operation were captured during that guerrilla attack. Rojas Medina is 36.

Carlos José Duarte Rojas has been a fellow prisoner of Wilson Rojas from the very first day. He was another of the agents abducted by the guerrillas some 13 years ago in Puerto Rico after a two-day siege. Duarte Rojas, 41, a sportsman, will reunite with his two sons and will also have the opportunity to meet a grandson.

Jorge Humberto Romero Romero, subintendant, was also captured in Puerto Rico. He had been a member of the police force for 12 years when that assault occurred. He had served in Villavencio, where his captivity ended. He is now 50 and has suffered back problems during his years in captivity.

Jorge Trujillo Solarte, 42, was another of the victims in the attack on Puerto Rico. He was serving as a subintendant in the station that was attacked. According to proof of life FARC sent during his captivity, Trujillo Solarte has suffered kidney stones and a skin infection. His daughter had just been born when he was taken.

José Libardo Forero Carrero, sergeant, tried to escape in 2009 along with Trujillo Solarte, but the jungle returned them to the hands of the guerrillas. When his captivity began, he was a corporal with 32 years of age and two children.

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