Freed Colombian hostage says only solution 'political'

A Colombian politician who dodged army bombs during more than seven years in rebel captivity said on Tuesday President Alvaro Uribe had "done nothing" to help him win back his freedom.

Freed Colombian hostage says only solution 'political'

Former local governor Alan Jara, snatched after opening a new bridge in 2001, criticized Uribe's hard-line military crackdown against the Marxist FARC rebels, who have been fighting a four-decade conflict against the state.

"With all my heart I feel President Uribe didn't do anything to secure our freedom," Jara, 51, said soon after a Red Cross mission airlifted him out of the jungles in the rebels' fifth hostage release this week.

"A humanitarian accord is the only possible way to save the lives of those who are still out."

With the help of billions of dollars in U.S. military aid, Uribe has driven the rebels further into the Andean nation's thick forests and remote mountains, but he has rejected the rebels' terms for a deal to swap FARC prisoners for hostages.

Jara said he had feared for his life on four occasions when the Colombian army dropped bombs over the jungle camps where he was held.

"Bombs came down very close to us," he said, sitting beside his wife Claudia and their 15-year-old son. "In the jungle, the world is upside down, the rebels protected me and the army shot at me ... the fear was not that the rebels would kill me, but that the army would."

Jara told reporters his captors would rather have killed their hostages than have them rescued by the government. But he said he had not been ill-treated, complaining instead of the jungle's oppressive humidity and the exhausting treks.

To keep their highly prized prisoner from escaping, the rebels chained Jara by his ankle. He said two fellow captives had been chained together by the neck for two years as a punishment.

Jara said the predictable dinner offerings helped him keep track of the days of the week.

"You can tell what day it is depending if it's pasta or lentils ... It was rice and beans, then the next day rice and peas," he said, adding that the meager offerings were sometimes supplemented when the rebels hunted jungle animals including armadillos, wild cats or monkeys.

The FARC has been battered by Uribe's security crackdown, desertions and the loss of several top commanders, but Jara said young recruits were still joining the ranks of the once-mighty peasant army.

"The only solution is political," he said. "The FARC haven't been defeated by any means. I don't know what the perception is out here but in the jungle there are lots of them, most of them young, and for me the only way out of this has got to be negotiations."

Reuters

Last Mod: 04 Şubat 2009, 15:55
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