The military operation to free Betancourt and 14 other hostages was a huge gamble for Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe, but one that eventually paid off. Uribe said it vindicates his policy of not negotiating with the FARC rebels.
The mission was a bluff that took everyone by surprise, not least Betancourt herself, who said: “This morning when I woke up the last thing I imagined was that I’d be here with you. It’s a miracle, I don’t know what else to call it. For me it’s a miracle.” Uribe described the 22-minute operation, in which not a shot was fired, as “one of the greatest epic tales in history.”
Buoyed by his coup, he promised to liberate FARC’s remaining hostages. “Despite our weaknesses and our limits we don’t forget for a single day those who are still in captivity and their families. I vow that we won’t forget them for a single moment until they are free,” said Uribe.
The mission owes its success to a breakdown in FARC’s communication network. The rebels have lost three major leaders this year, including the group’s founder Manuel Marulanda. It continues to hold between 350 and 700 hostages as leverage.