Colombian rebels release videos of hostage troops
A Colombian senator on Monday released rebel videos of kidnapped soldiers and police who pleaded with the government to negotiate their release after some of them have spent more than a decade in jungle camps, Reuters reported.
The grainy videos showed the nine hostages alone in the jungle or sitting before colored sheets hiding their location as they sent wishes to wives, sons and daughters and urged President Alvaro Uribe not to forget them.
"What is happening, are we not human any more? Are we just animals?" one hostage soldier, Sgt. Arbey Delgado, said.
The men are among 24 police and soldiers held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America's oldest surviving insurgency. Some have spent nearly 11 years in captivity after guerrillas overran their bases.
The proof-of-life videos were handed over by the FARC to a left-leaning senator, Piedad Cordoba, who has in the past helped broker releases of FARC hostages. Attempts to negotiate a full deal to free the hostages have been stalled for years.
The plight of Colombia's FARC hostages drew worldwide attention last year with the military rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors held for more than five years.
Helped by U.S. military aid, Uribe has sent troops to take back territory and the guerrillas have been battered to their weakest state in years by desertions, the deaths of several top commanders and the rescue of several high-profile hostages.
Violence, kidnapping and bombings that once made daily headlines in Colombia have eased. But the FARC still are a potent force in remote rural areas where they finance their operations through cocaine trafficking and extortion.
Attempts to negotiate a deal to exchange FARC hostages for jailed rebel fighters have gone nowhere, though the guerrilla leadership have before released a few hostages as a gesture of good will and recently appeared to give up a key demand for a demilitarized zone.
"It's so hard, he is in a bad way, physically bad," said Hilda Duarte, wife of police Col. Edgar Yesid Duarte, after seeing him in the video.
"Mr. President, now is the time... we don't want them to suffer any more."