Colombian Hostages Freed
REPORTER: A helicopter carrying two former hostages held in a Colombian jungle for nearly six years landed safely in Venezuela on Thursday. In a deal brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia Rebels, also known as FARC, released Consuelo González and Clara Rojas into Venezuelan custody in an operation dubbed Emmanuel. Chavez announced the release of the former congresswoman and the aide to former Colombian presidential hopeful Ingrid Betancourt earlier in the day from his presidential palace in Caracas.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): One minute ago I spoke, spoke, spoke directly over the phone to Clara and Consuelo. The humanitarian rescue operation “Emmanuel” which started this morning is coming to light.
According to The Guardian newspaper, the previous Venezuelan-led mission to free the hostages and a three year old Colombian named Emmanuel, the alleged product of a relationship between Rojas and a guerrilla fighter on December 31, failed when FARC accused the Colombian military of sabotaging a promised hand-off. Bloomberg reported Chavez said he will maintain contact with the rebel group in a bid to free more of its captives. The event is being held as the most important hostage release in the Colombian conflict since 2001, when the FARC freed some 300 soldiers and police officers. Rojas was kidnapped in February 2002 while campaigning with Betancourt in a FARC-dominated region of southern Colombia. Gonzales was abducted by the FARC in September 2001 near the city of Neiva.
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