(by CNN wire staff, CNN.com) — Colombian Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, held by Colombian FARC rebels as a hostage for more than 12 years, was reunited with his family after being released by his captors.
The young soldier arrived in the city of Florencia in a Brazilian military helicopter that transported him from the jungle, and he walked out wearing a military uniform and into his waiting father’s arms. He had been held captive longer than any other hostage held by the rebels.
Moncayo was accompanied by Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who helped negotiate his release.
He had been captured as a 19-year-old corporal when Marxist guerrillas attacked his unit, killing 22 of his colleagues and capturing him and 18 others on December 21, 1997.
“How amazing it is to see civilization again,” Moncayo told reporters shortly after his return. The advances in technology fascinated him the most, he said.
“I survived everything, all of these years of captivity because of my love for Colombia,” Moncayo said. ……..
During the handover, the FARC also gave Senator Cordoba the coordinates of the remains of a third hostage who died in captivity in 2006. Colombian authorities could retrieve the remains of Maj. Julian Guevara as soon as Thursday. ….
If his experience was like that of other freed hostages, Moncayo likely spent the years chained to trees and marching from one jungle hideout to another every few days. Other captives have talked about enduring rain, cold and a blistering sun, and eating mostly beans and rice and weak soup — when fortunate enough to get a meal.
It’s a reality that changed Tuesday for Moncayo when the rebels released him.
The rebels had said they would release Moncayo, who was promoted to the rank of sergeant while in captivity, nearly a year ago.
The FARC already released a hostage Sunday.
Josue Daniel Calvo, who had been held for 11 months, was reunited with his family Sunday on a tarmac in the city of Villavicencio, where the helicopter that retrieved him touched down. …..
The FARC released six hostages last year but have said Moncayo would be the last set free unilaterally. From now on, the FARC said, the rebels will demand that guerrillas held by the Colombian government be swapped for the remaining police and soldiers under rebel captivity, many for more than a decade.
Moncayo was among the best-known hostages still in FARC captivity, due mostly to the efforts of his father, who walked across Colombia to garner attention and press for his son’s release.
Gustavo Guillermo Moncayo Rincon set out on June 17, 2007, Father’s Day in Colombia, on a 700-mile (1,100-kilometer) trek from his hometown of Sandona to the capital, Bogota. The teacher became known as “el caminante por la paz” (“the walker for peace”).
He was received by a governor and a mayor on his walk, which drew nationwide attention. Thousands of people cheered him when he arrived at the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota in August 2007.
The walk put pressure on Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate with the rebels, which he has steadfastly declined to do.
The FARC announced on April 16, 2009, that it would release Moncayo in the hopes of starting peace talks with the government. Uribe responded that the rebels first had to stop “bombing, kidnapping and drug smuggling.”
Any chance for an immediate release seemed to fall apart in December, when 10 armed men killed a state governor and Uribe blamed the FARC.
No independent estimate of FARC’s guerrilla strength exists, though its military force has been severely compromised recently. Government estimates say the FARC fighting force could have dropped to below 7,000 from highs of around 18,000 in 2000.
Security analysts have said FARC guerrillas, who are accused of trafficking in cocaine to finance their insurgency, have thousands of supporters, mostly in rural areas.
The guerrilla group operates mostly in Colombia but has carried out extortion, kidnappings and other activities in Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador, analysts say.
1. For how long was Colombian soldier Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo held hostage by FARC?
2. What is FARC?
3. To what did Sgt. Moncayo credit his survival?
4. What kind of experience do most FARC hostages have, according to other released captives?
5. What did Sgt. Moncayo’s father do to try to secure his release?
6. FARC still holds a number of hostages. Under what conditions will they release any of these other hostages?
7. Under what conditions has President Uribe said he would agree to peace talks with FARC?
For a map of South America, go to WorldAtlas.com.
Watch a video of Moncayo’s release here.