Captain Pablo Emilio Moncayo thanked the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías; of Ecuador, Rafael Correa; and of Brasil, Luis Inacio “Lula” Da Silva, as well as Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, for their efforts to win the liberation of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), upon his release yesterday.
Moncayo, who was released unilaterally by the FARC guerrillas, was reunited with his family 12 years and three months following his capture on December 21, 1997, when the FARC took the Colombian Army’s communications station at Cerro Patascoy, in the Nariño department on the border with Ecuador, where Moncayo served.
A humanitarian mission headed by Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba was tasked to go to an enclave of the Colombian jungle to receive Moncayo from the hands of the FARC. The mission was composed of members of Colombians for Peace and Brazilian military officials who were in charge of logistics.
In his first words to the press on Tuesday from the Florencia airport in Colombia, Moncayo thanked the “indefatigable” Senator Cordoba, Colombians for Peace, the Catholic Church, and the International Red Cross. He also thanks his father, Professor Gustavo Moncayo, known as “the peace walker,” who has traveled the world campaigning for a peaceful resolution to Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict and the release of all hostages.
He also said, “I want to thank the president of Ecuador, Rafeal Correa, because he called for the guerillas to make a gesture of peace with my handover, also I want to thank the efforts of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and of Brasil, Lula Da Silva.”
In 2008, despite opposition from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Chavez facilitated the release of six Colombian ex-lawmakers in two separate missions: First, Clara Rojas and Consuelo González; second, Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Pérez, Orlando Beltrán and Jorge Eduardo Géchem.
Following his release, Moncayo called for the Colombian authories to increase efforts to free the remaining hostages, and to engage in a process of political negotiation with the FARC because they represent a “reality” of the South American nation.
“I don’t think the FARC guerrillas will change the history of Colombia, they simply exist, they are a reality that can not be denied as much as you may want to, they seem invisible but they are there,” Moncayo said.
Moncayo’s release is the second by the FARC this year. The first was last Sunday, when Senator Cordoba and the FARC negotiated the release of Josué Calvo, a Colombian soldier. The hostage releases have reignited calls for the Colombian government to yield to a negotiated political solution to Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict.
For several years now, the FARC have been proposing the exchange of more than two dozen soldiers and policemen for guerilla insurgents imprisoned in Colombia and the United States, as a basis for the initiation of negotiations.
The Colombian government, headed by President Alvaro Uribe, is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel. Colombia received $541 million in military aid from the U.S. for 2010, and has implemented a policy of military escalation, known as the “democratic security” policy, in an attempt to crush the FARC and refused to enter into negotiations for a humanitarian exchange.
As Moncayo was undergoing medical examinations in the Central Military Hospital in Bogotá last night, Professor Moncayo told reporters that the family was considering leaving Colombia in order to reorganise their lives.
“Our lives have changed too much, there has been a 180-degree turn around. Today we will try to rearrange our home to look ahead to the future and possibly we will have to leave the country so that Pablo Emilio can try to forget all about this bad dream,” he said.