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Hostage release triumph for Chavez

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Hostage release triumph for Chavez


There has been a happy ending at last for Hugo Chavez and the two women hostages whose liberation he helped secure. Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez are tasting freedom after years of captivity in the Colombian jungle. Marxist FARC rebels freed them following the Venezuelan leader’s intervention.

It is vindication for the efforts of the left-wing president who was widely criticized when a previous attempt to release the captives collapsed on New Year’s Eve. There were emotional scenes as the two women were reunited with their families at Caracas Airport.

Rojas had a son with one of her rebel captors. Secretly moved out of the jungle, the boy was placed in foster care. She has been told they will be reunited soon. Gonzalez met her young granddaughter for the first time. The women were freed in a jungle clearing near San Jose del Guaviare, then flown to a Venezuelan border town and onto Caracas.

Rojas was working for Franco-Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt when they were both snatched in 2002. She says they have been held apart for the past three years. Hugo Chavez has vowed to continue efforts to release other captives, raising hopes for relatives of the hundreds of people still being held by the FARC.

The husband of ex-congresswoman Gonzalez died during her six years in captivity. This was the first time Latin America’s oldest rebel group has freed any of its high-profile hostages. Ingrid Betancourt’s family will be hoping it is not the last.

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