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Mother of rebel-held Colombian hostage prepares for captives to be freed

Mother of rebel-held Colombian hostage prepares for captives to be freed

Clara Gonzalez de Rojas said Monday she is ready to travel to meet her daughter and grandson whenever leftist rebels free them after years in captivity in the Colombian jungles.
In a Christmas Eve news conference, Gonzalez de Rojas revealed that the Colombian government has provided a plane on standby, ready to fly the family "wherever we have to go" for the release of her daughter, Clara Rojas, Rojas' young son, Emmanuel, and former Congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez.
Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who has worked closely with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, toward an agreement to release the hostages in Venezuela, suggested that their freedom could be delayed.
"I just arrived in (the Colombian city of) Medellin. I don't know anything about the freeing of Clara," Cordoba told The Associated Press. "I have no idea, but if I did know they were going to be freed, I would be in Caracas right now."
With Venezuelan officials tightlipped about the timeline for the release, little information has emerged about when the handover could happen.
"We will receive them very soon," Cordoba said, without giving more details.
The Colombian government denied reports that military operations were complicating the guerrillas' efforts to free the hostages.
"There are no military movements aimed at disrupting this liberation," said Luis Carlos Restrepo, the government's top peace negotiator.
Relatives of three hostages are hoping to spend their first Christmas in years with their loved ones after the rebels announced plans to release Rojas _ an aide to former Colombian presidential candidate and fellow hostage Ingrid Betancourt _ Emmanuel and Gonzalez, who was kidnapped in September 2001.
The FARC said they would hand over the hostages to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "or whomever he designates" _ leading to speculation the hostages would be freed in neighboring Venezuela.
The FARC is holding 44 other prominent hostages _ including Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors snatched nearly five years ago _ and is offering to release them only in exchange for the release of hundreds of imprisoned rebels.
Gonzalez de Rojas _ who is not related to the hostage congresswoman _ told journalists she had not been in contact with the Venezuelan government or other mediators and didn't know when or where the hostages would be freed.
She also thanked the rebels for their decision.
"Thank you, guerrillas, if you return my daughter and beloved grandson," she said while surrounded by Christmas presents for Emmanuel, whom she's never met.
Little is known about the boy, thought to be about 3 years old, who was born in captivity, reportedly the product of a relationship between Rojas and one of her captors.
Rojas was in southern Colombia on Feb. 23, 2002 as part of Betancourt's presidential campaign when their car was stopped by FARC rebels.
In her press conference, Gonzalez de Rojas sent a message to the French-Colombian Betancourt, who turns 46 Tuesday.
"I send her my appreciation, all my consideration, and we hope that she and all the others out there can recover their freedom as soon as possible," said Gonzalez de Rojas, who was named person of the year Monday by Colombia's leading news magazine, Semana.
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Associated Press writer Cesar Garcia in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-18 13:55 GMT+08:00