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Loved ones freed in Colombia, family members rejoice

Relatives of former hostages Ingrid Betancourt and Marc Gonsalves had come to London to raise awareness of their detention by FARC rebels. Now, instead, they are being reunited. The families say they will continue to advocate for other hostages still being held.

By Mark Rice-OxleyCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / July 4, 2008


Jo Rosano couldn't find the words. It's been more than five years since her son, Marc Gonsalves, was snatched from the wreck of a Cessna in the Colombian jungle by guerrillas belonging to the rebel group FARC. Five lonely, bewildering years that have left her battling depression but also find great relief in God.

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But now that Mr. Gonsalves, a US contractor abducted in 2003, is finally free, Rosano isn't giving up. The job is only half done. There are hundreds of hostages still back there in the tropical interior, and life may be about to get even harder for them because of the audacity and insouciance of Wednesday's mission to free Gonsalves, Ingrid Betancourt, and 13 other hostages.

"We still have the other hostages to get out," says Rosano in an interview just hours after hearing news of her son's release. "They are human beings, too. I'm sure my son Marc would want that.

"It makes me angry," she adds. "These are human beings held against their will and they have committed no crime. Ingrid was campaigning, my son was doing his job, politicians were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Ingrid Betancourt's ex-husband, Fabrice Delloye, hinted too that the struggle is not yet over. "We are not only fighting for Ingrid but for all the hostages and for the path where Ingrid started her political life – against corruption and for more social justice in Colombia and against war," he said.

In a strange coincidence, Rosano, Mr. Delloye, and Betancourt's daughter, Melanie Delloye-Betancourt, had just descended on London for the first time to try to galvanize interest in the protracted hostage saga among the English-speaking press, which has been much more focused on Iraq and Afghanistan hostage crises. The relatives felt that greater coverage, particularly in the US press, would bring additional pressure to bear on President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, both of whom have been opposed to a negotiated solution.

In earlier interviews, none gave the slightest indication of expecting a breakthrough any time soon. Delloye expressed hope because the FARC have been on the back foot in recent months, losing a string of leaders to death and defection. But Melanie hinted at a wariness about getting too hopeful too soon. "We've learned to be careful [about good news]," she says. "We've had too many disappointments over the years."

Ironically, many relatives have been opposed to the kind of daring operation mounted on Wednesday ever since a French-inspired rescue attempt backfired in 2003. Delloye says he and his children were far more in favor of a negotiated settlement, probably involving prisoner swaps, to minimize risks to hostages.