Hostage to Death (Military & War Short Stories Collection)

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He asked forgiveness of Polanco and her family, on Voices of the Kidnapped, and she gave it. She was elected to the Colombian Congress in absentia in , and she credits her faith for keeping her sane.

Henry Dunant

Ingrid, who she said was a good friend, gave her French lessons. Polanco has no job and receives no help from the Colombian government other than bodyguards to protect her. Like some of the other released hostages, she has received death threats. Try as she might to conceal her feelings, she showed traces of bitterness toward Ingrid. I was almost totally destroyed.


Tirofijo —Sureshot—was the nickname given to the founder of the farc, Manuel Marulanda, who died last March at 78 of natural causes. Che Guevara was still alive. Revolution was often discussed among the young, but only theoretically. Colombia was very Catholic then, not yet tainted by the tremendous wealth and corruption cocaine would bring to it. I had a Colombian boyfriend, Alfonso Ospina, a dashing, six-foot-four scion of a leading political dynasty and the son of a very rich cattle rancher. His self-made father, Bernardo, was the first cousin of his mother, Elena, who was the daughter of a Colombian president, Mariano Ospina.

In time, both the farc and the paras would evolve into little more than murderous, non-ideological drug traffickers.

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I worked with a mountain community above my barrio—where coffee, flowers, and vegetables were grown—to build its first school. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia helped us with materials, and the community provided the labor. When we inaugurated the two-room schoolhouse for 35 children, in , the community named it the Escuela Marina Orth. I started two foundations to raise money, and today students are enrolled. It is the first school in Colombia to have computers from the One Laptop per Child organization.

Escobar hid out right near my school shortly before his death, in Then the area became favored by the paramilitaries, who also dealt drugs, kidnapped civilians, extorted money from businesses, and generally cowed the local population. After leaving the Peace Corps, I remained close to people in my barrio, as well as to Alfonso, who went into politics. In the early 80s he was chief of staff to President Belisario Betancur, who reached an accord with the farc for a cease-fire and the creation of the Patriotic Union Party, which allowed leftists for the first time to play a role in government.

So many of its candidates and members were murdered, however, by the paras and right-wing death squads that the whole process broke down irretrievably. In the farc made the formal decision to adopt the drug trade as a way to finance its activities.

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Cocaine is used by the farc to purchase weapons and feed its army. One of the ways for big narcos to launder drug money was to acquire land. Their fincas and haciendas became symbols of their wealth. He was kidnapped on his way to work one morning in , and months later his family learned that he had been murdered. His kidnappers, hearing gunshots fired by one of their guards, had believed that Colombian soldiers were coming after them. They ordered Alfonso to run and shot him in the head.

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In the 90s, the farc and other guerrilla bands took to stopping whole strings of cars on highways in order to pick out the people who would bring the largest ransom. No one goes unscathed. Juanes, the singer, has had a cousin kidnapped. As a result, he has earned a 78 percent approval rating it was 90 percent right after the hostages were liberated. If the dramatic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, 11 soldiers and policemen, and three Americans by the Colombian military did one thing, it was to make Colombians not only proud of their country but also ready to fight back. Some of them have since been arrested.

But Colombia is not able to count on its neighbors. According to the seized material, the leftist government of Ecuador, which, like Venezuela, is very anti-U. The Bush administration, fueled by the Reyes files, promptly accused three top Venezuelan officials of supplying the farc with arms and helping them to traffic cocaine. Jaque was so secret and compartmentalized that only a few people knew all the details. For several months Colombian commandos had known that they were zeroing in on the hostages.

A Crime by Any Name

On February 4 they had seen at close range the three captive Americans bathing in a river. These elite troops had been trained by American Green Berets, some of whom had patrolled the jungle with them. In , for example, a rescue mission had been mounted to get the Americans out, but they had not been where they were supposed to be. It was a strictly Colombian operation.

The Americans contributed by supplying backup aircraft equipped with satellite communications and the latest tracking and eavesdropping equipment. Ironically, for years the U. However, once the three American contractors were taken prisoner, in , U. The nine commandos and five pilots involved in Jaque had all taken acting lessons and had received scripts to memorize—not only so that they would be credible at the scene of the rescue, which was timed to last seven minutes, but also so that in the event of their capture they would have fictitious life stories to tell the farc.

A second helicopter, with pilots similarly equipped with fake life histories, was at the ready in case of an emergency. The plan had not been an easy sell. If they catch us during the operation, the ones at risk are us. Go ahead and give me the proof that the fish is on the hook. The farc took the bait so readily that the operation had to be moved up 13 days. A third group of hostages was made up of police officers and soldiers. They were all brought—some from as far away as 60 miles—to the designated gathering spot. The risk factor was time.

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Santos had to get approval from President Uribe, who said the minister would have to abide by his promise to President Bush not to use force. Santos had briefed the American ambassador and the C. It so happened that John McCain was on a visit to Colombia on Tuesday, the day before the rescue was set to take place, so he was also told about it, but he had nothing to do with the operation. The 38 guerrillas on the scene remained on the ground unharmed. Santos did more than just grant the delegates permission.

The guerrillas would hear it on the radio, and we had told them that this was a transport to Cano, because we were going to start negotiations about humanitarian exchanges. The presence of these two guys was a gift from God. If anything went wrong, there was always Plan B. UAE joins naval security coalition in the Gulf. Welcome to the Arctic: Degraded radios, poor satellite geometry and sea charts dating back to Capt.

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