July 2nd, 2008
09:47 PM ET

Bait and switch in the jungles of Colombia

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/02/art.hostages.jpg]
Randi Kaye
AC360° Correspondent

I'm talking about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. They are blamed for hundreds of kidnappings, including police, politicians, and U.S. civilians.

Boy – did they have one pulled over on them today.

Here's what happened. Colombia military members infiltrated the rebel group in order to plan the rescue of 15 hostages, including three American hostages held for more than five years, and Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian presidential candidate taken hostage in 2002.

The military may have been inside the rebel group for years. They pretended to be moving the hostages to another jungle base but instead, when they got in the air in their helicopter, the military revealed who they really were. They told the hostages, we are military, you are free!

Betancourt said there was so much jumping up and down they almost brought the helicopter down. Imagine the tears and elation inside that chopper!

Last year a video was released of Betancourt showing her near death. She was so skinny and frail with a chain around her neck, she could barely hold herself up.

The FARC doesn't mess around. It was established in the 1960s as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It later became involved with the cocaine trade during the 1980's for the purposes of fundraising.

Here's the backstory on the American hostages: Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell. They were private contractors working for Northrop Grumman, working for the U.S. government. In 2003, their plane went down while they were doing surveillance on coca fields in FARC territory. The rebels use coca as a key ingredient for cocaine - and to raise millions of dollars.

I recently met with Marc Gonsalves' mother at her home in Connecticut. Through her tears she told me, "I have other evidence from God. He tells me every day in my heart that he's alive and he will be home."

I've heard that so many times from heartbroken parents over the years.. It's nice to see that feeling turn out so positively this time. Tomorrow his mom will be able to hug Gonsalves for the first time in more than 5 years.

The hostages are heading to Texas tonight to the Brooke Army Medical Center and will be reunited with family tomorrow. It gives the other 750 hostages supposedly held by the FARC hope, doesn't it?

Filed under: 360° Radar • Randi Kaye
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Britni Elder

    What happens to the other 750? Will they be jeapordized by this capture? I am extremely elated that this has been made possibe, and our people were saved, however there are so many more. What happens next?

    July 3, 2008 at 3:22 am |
  2. Richard Olsen

    Great coverage of this rescue Anderson. Great news like this should also be milked like the bad stuff. It was a great day for our Colombian Allies. President Uribe is really kicking terrorist-ass down there and they DESERVE THE RECOGNITION. This was a real brilliant operation which shows that Colombia and President Uribe are on the right track in the fight against terrorism in Colombia. Congratulations to the Colombian Armed forces, President Uribe and to the families of the rescued hostages.

    July 3, 2008 at 2:34 am |
  3. Constanza Smith

    I am a Colombian married to an American. I have always been proud to be Colombian, but today, I am more than proud: I am elated right! Is wonderful to know that Ingrid and the three other hostages were freed because of the extraordinary maneuver the Colombian government executed. My family in Colombia had always been great supporters of Alvaro Uribe, now I know why.
    I had heard many times unkind comments about my country. Maybe people would realize that my country is also a nation of laws and rules. A country that is fighting to clean up its image in the world.
    Hopefully the rest of the hostages can be freed soon.

    PS: Ditto on Andres Defrancisco’s comment. Letting people know Colombia is a wonderful, beautiful country with many wonderful things to offer, helps to change the view many have of it.

    Anderson, Thank you for visiting my beautiful country.

    July 3, 2008 at 2:30 am |
  4. Lisa Dugger

    I just watched their plane touch down in Texas i cried for them and their familes. Its impossible to imagine how happy they must all be. Good Luck

    July 3, 2008 at 2:26 am |
  5. GF, Los Angles

    I'm glad these hostages were freed however I fear for those left behind what the repercussions will be.

    July 3, 2008 at 2:05 am |
  6. Tricia

    Congratulations to the Colombian government for this operation that went off without a single shot or any blood shed. What Americans usually don't think of, is how much the Colombian governement wants to rid their own country of FARC and how the citizens of this country have been terrorized by them for too long. Everyone wants peace in Colombia. Today appears to be the beginning of PEACE. I love how Anderson always adds the real honest comment during his show, He said he had just vacationed there and it had progessed and he felt safe. I too, just went to Colombia and felt safe and found the country to be really nice.
    The next US President should look to President Uribe in terms of how he has probaby been given the most complicated country to govern and consistently made life safe and better for its citizens!!
    Thanks to Uribe-

    July 3, 2008 at 1:58 am |
  7. john a miller

    what will be the result of the safe capture of our people. i am concerned about remaining hostiges. i think we should have kept this more private to protect others. do you disagree or agree


    July 3, 2008 at 1:48 am |
  8. Tomas Paez

    Anderson ...thank you for this extended broadcast ..Im glad that you and CNN realize the importance of this event..
    Colombia, is a great country and the people really deserve this and so much more.
    I am extremely happy for the famlies of the three Americans released, god bless them.
    I ask everybody here in the US to remember those that are still captive. LEt us pray that all captives in Colombia and everywhere else in the world, be released....Nobody deserves to live "years" of their life, as a captive and suffer the pschological and physical trauma this entailes..
    The United States should allways and continue to support Colombia and its president Alvaro Uribe... its time for the government of the US to stop accusing the olCombian government of human right violations against the members of the FARC or any other armed group.. starting with AL...GORE a mis informed politicitian who has shamefully criticized Uribe on many occations..
    I also hope that the WORLD realize that colombia is today surounded by sympathizers of the FARC : Venezuela CHAVEZ... Ecuador .Rafael Correa..and Nicaragua .Ortega.....The US has really turned their back to South AMerica... ...WE need to openly stand beside COLOMBIA ..and make those who rejoice in Colombias difficulties like CHAVEZ ..etc.. America needs to support ,protect and work with COLOMBIA......and make a POWERFULL AND FORCEFUL STATMENT to those countries that want to destablize South America that the US will not allow and will support its allias like Colombia with whatever it needs.......

    July 3, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  9. Valentin Saportas

    The rescue of the 15 hostages in Colombia today is truly a blessing. As a Colombian living abroad, I cannot express in words how proud I feel of my country and President Uribe. Colombia is a nation that has been battered by so-called leftist rebel groups (nothing more than terrorist groups in my eyes) for decades, and I hope this magnificent event marks the start of a new era in Colombian history; an era of peace and economic prosperity. It is important for the international community to support Colombia in its ongoing war against the terrorist FARC organization. It is imperative that we use this phenomenal momentum created by today's events to further deteriorate the already weakened infrastructure of FARC. Let's keep the eye on the ball. Although there are many world issues of great importance that must be addressed, ridding Colombia of these terrorist groups is also of utmost importance. God bless Colombia and the United States.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  10. Liza Galea

    Today will go down as a great moment in history not only for the hostages and the families that they will re-uninte with but for the people of the world to unite and create an awareness into the communist movements and militia groups that continue to hold hundreds of individuals hostage. The international community needs to continue to unite and maintian their efforts to fight terror.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  11. Bert

    After so many years of bloody confrontations between Columbian govenment and guerillas, it is rather unbelievable that the hostages were "rescued" without a bloodhsed and a single bullet fired. Particularly because the "miraculous rescue" strangely coincided with McCains visit. It is more likely that this was he Presidential candidate's political move to boost his chances for election, and that the hostages were bought rather than "rescued." Histgorical records show alost a complete absence of philantropic actions on the part of Columbia, one of the biggest world's producers of illegal subsances.

    July 3, 2008 at 1:26 am |
  12. Miguel Lara

    please talk about how the double nationality of betancourt.. I saw her in paris. she is also french

    July 3, 2008 at 1:16 am |
  13. Judi


    Thank you all for making this miracle unfold. I am truly grateful and so very proud of this brilliant and heroic act of BRAVERY and HUMANITY!

    We are most humbly in your debt.

    We will continue to PRAY for the release of ALL of the HOSTAGES who deserve a miracle too.

    God Bless You and Your Country!

    July 3, 2008 at 1:09 am |

    Ac : Im currently in ibague – colombia . I just heard you visited colombia on vacations .
    thanks for let the world Know how nice colombian people are and how safe is becoming our country .

    Is nice to heard from an american guy like you we are not what other american´s think we are .
    we are not drug dealers , we are not guerrillas ,we are not bad people .

    we are just a country with 44 millon people that love Freedom .


    sorry for my english

    July 3, 2008 at 12:50 am |
  15. David J

    First of all, I'd like to congratulate the Colombian government and military for this courageous victory. It is clear that things over there are getting much better as people that I know have visited Bogota and admited to loved it.
    Also, I'd like to know why everytime something good happens, most people in our country assume that the U.S. had something to do? Someone in this blog assumed that the U.S military had some involvement taking away credit from the Colombian president and military. This was a 100% colombian operation. Media should be more objective and inform how other countries are doing great things for our world, not just our country is the only one, othe nations are capable of doing great things.
    God bless the good people of the whole world, not just America.
    David J

    July 2, 2008 at 11:54 pm |
  16. Paulette, NYC

    I've been following the story since the moment it broke and I almost couldn't believe it. I am Colombian born and American raised and I could not be happier right now. This is a great day for the military and government of Colombia. The only thing that could be better would be the END of FARC and the release of the remaining 700 hostages.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  17. Milton Minor

    Too much info about the details of the deception to carry out this release could be detrimental in future operations. Knowing that they were set free is more important that the details. The press needs to learn how to release information intelligently.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm |
  18. Wendy in Canada

    Congratulations to the USA and to the government of Colombia! What an early 4th of July gift for the people of the US! Looking ahead, does this mean we can expect to see Gov. Richardson on the stump as a vice-presidential candidate in the near future? It's gotta be an indicator of the leadership and initiative he's capable of.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  19. Juan Espinosa

    This is a very happy day for all Colombians and Americans specially for the families of the hostages and the hostages themselves . The outcome of this operation is beyond satisfactory and shows us the result of the cooperation between two great nations. I hope this cooperation continues and giving so the birth of a great alliance. I feel proud of being a colombian and also feel proud of the colombian army, navy and air force. I hope the best for the former american and colombian hostages and their families. I we are patient and trust our governments this war will soon end and we will come out victorious defeating the terrorists that want to control our way of life.
    Thanks Mr. president Uribe and all of the military of colombia for your efforts they will not be in vain.

    Liberty will prevail.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  20. Francisco

    President Uribe made a great decision when he decided the attack to the leader of the FARC in Ecuador. It was a high use of political capital. However, that PC is doing the miracle. All the information is there to defeat the FARC. It is probably being use in a methodic and secure way. Hugo Chavez is probably deep in mud in that PC. I hope Uribe can use that information to get rid of that dog. The adoptive son of Fidel Castro and widower of Reyes is keeping a low profile, letting Ortega in Nicaragua and Evo in Bolivia do the talking. I think it is about time for the US to build the military base in Colombia. Close to Venezuela.
    Is the fact that McCain was there a coincidence?
    By the way my Cuban friends call CNN: Castro Network News. Why?

    July 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  21. Camila Hernandez

    I am a Colombian-American and I have to agree with Caroleena. I am ashamed of the TERRORIST group FARC. They not only held hostages captive, but the hopes and dreams of thousand of Colombians. However, today is a perfect example of how this "organization" is weakening. The kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt affected Colombians all over the world. We united for freedom and our outrage encouraged the French and American governments to work alongside the Colombian government to liberate all hostages. Ultimately, with the help of these goverments, the Colombian military was able to rescue them. Hopefully today will bring some light to the rest of the world to unite and aid Colombians in liberating the thousands that remain in captivity. I am very happy for Ingrid, the American contractors and all others who were liberated and reunited with their families today. I hope that soon all hostages will be reunited with their families.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  22. Fabricio, NYC

    With most of the FARC secretariat in a state of disarray, and most of its fronts lacking communication; this is the perfect opportunity for the Uribe administration to finally deal a critical blow. Cano (its current leader) has two options: open a dialogue with the Colombian government or face the same outcome of Raul Reyes.
    For 44 years, Colombia has struggled with this armed group. Its time to finally bring it to an end.
    As a citizen with a dual nationality (American & Colombian); I am very proud of the hard work that the Colombian Armed Forces and National Police displayed today.
    Thank you President Uribe for the hard work! Let's bring the rest back home!!!

    July 2, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  23. Damon Corkin

    The FARC may be an "evil" organization involved in hundreds of kidnappings, including politicians and U.S. civilians, but it is important not to overlook that its money and power come directly from the United States. If the U.S. could control the illegal smuggling of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S., the FARC would be powerless. U.S. cocaine consumers and immigration officials that are willing to look the other way keep the FARC afloat and vibrant.

    It is imperative to DIG DEEPER and examine closely how this organization has been able to fund and fight this civil war in Colombia for over 40 years. If the U.S. spent as much money on controlling its borders and as it does on eradicating coca in Colombia via the Plan Colombia, it would have put an end to this "terrorist" organization decades ago.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  24. alberto alvarado

    Anderson, I just can say that I am Jumping of the FELICIDAD. Its also nice also to hear your personal comments about the current situation in Colombia

    July 2, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  25. Alex

    Great day for us, Colombians. Thanks to G-d and those involved.
    We hope whatever comes next to be positive.

    Let's do not forget those who are still captive. It is sad to think there are some with 11+ years as FARC prisoners.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  26. Andres Defrancisco

    AC, I am a Colombian (10 years in the US), just heard you mentioned that you visited colombia on vacation and that you felt safe and that Colombia is not like American's think. Comments like those really help the country, please expand and share more!!!!
    Thank you!

    July 2, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  27. Edgar Z.

    This is such incredible news! This is great for the three American Hostages Thomas Howes, Mark Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, the other 11 Colombians and their families! It is incredible! The Colombian military acted heroically and the United States intelligence is also to thank. Colombia has transformed greatly in positive ways, FARC is diminishing and the government is bringing positive change to the country. Like Anderson said about his travels in Colombia, the country is becoming safer, I've been there myself.
    I hope we don't forget the other hundreds of kidnapped people in the jungles in Colombia. I hope for the speedy delivery to freedom of all the hostages.
    I thank CNN for their coverage of this important story for the United States, for Colombia, for France and the world.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  28. Sebastián

    Congratulations to the COlombian military forces, Ministry of Defense, and President Alvaro Uribe. Colombia is going to be the country to be looked at. Soon the narcoterrorists of FARC are going to be completely out, even their biggest political supporter, Hugo Chávez and his aide Rafael Correa of Ecuador realized they can't fight a democratically elected government. the armed fight is completely unacceptable and flawed at this time.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  29. Hugo Velasquez

    I have been following the coverage about the successful rescue mission of the hostages in Colombia, but my happiness and satisfaction of this whole ordeal was absurdly interrupted by the dumb comments of NM Governor Bill Richardson and the less accurate comments of CNN correspondent in Colombia Karl Penhaul.
    Bill Richardson said that the US contractors have been hostage for months instead of years and keep praising his fail attempts to negotiated their release vs the present military operation.
    Karl Penhaul had all the wrong facts, US Ambassador in Colombia said that this was a 100% Colombian operation and US involvement was only to keep them updated, second, Penhaul suggested that there were US special forces in the rescue helicopter in which case they would've stuck like a sore thumb, and finally the Colombian Special Forces are among the best in the world and have had many successful operations rescuing hostages, SO PENHAUL, PLEASE CHECK YOUR FACTS BEFORE

    July 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  30. Mara Hernandez

    The operation that has liberated these 15 hostages, is proof of a weakend FARC organization and of the amazing tenacity of the Colombian country and of our wonderful leader, president Uribe. The American Embassador in a press conference stated that is was a Colombian military operation all the way; if there was any American help, it was intel. The pilots of the helicopters that picked up the hostages in the south of Colombia by the Guaviare river, were Colombians as were the military infiltrated in the FARC organization as reported by the Colombian Government during their press conference. We are a country that has known terrorism and exploitism for many decades. Today, more than ever I feel proud to be a Colombian.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  31. Rodrigo Muller

    I am a Colombian 27 year old living in the U.S. and this is the greatest news I've ever heard! I'm so happy that my country's military was able to show the world that we are a nation of good people and that maybe the world will start looking at us with different eyes. The fact that there are a few bad apples in our country, doesn't mean that us as a nation are bad people. We are a nation of good, hard working, honest people that have been fighting the horrible image that the world sees for years. this event today just gives me so much hope that my country will be able to become the great nation that we've always wanted it to be.

    Thanks to our military and may God bless them!

    July 2, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  32. Nicolás

    I'm Colombian. And I must say that I'm very proud with today's operation. It has clearly been an event without precedents in the world. At least without a gunshot ever been fired. This was a completely Colombian Military Intelligence work; no help from anyone else as General Mario Montoya said on an interview recently.

    I am really happy that the three North Americans have recuperated their freedom, and I would like to say to them: please, do not hate Colombia. I know you had a terrible experience, but Colombia is a country full of lovely and joyful people. What the FARC did was preposterous. Colombia is not the FARC. We hate the guerillas as much as you and the world does. Please don't hate us.
    Welcome back to the liberty!

    God bless you.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  33. Melissa Newton

    A flawless operation by the Colombian military. President Uribe has proved that refusing to negotiate with terrorists does pay dividends in the end. Now, more than ever, Colombia needs the support of the US and Plan Colombia to finish off the FARC and their reign of terror. The US Congress should prove that we stand by our staunch ally in South America and pass the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Guerilla groups such as the FARC have little appeal to Colombians when they have access to increased job opportunities and a growing economy.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  34. Harrison

    This is a proud day to be a Colombian and an American. With all the bad news that always comes from Colombia, this is great news and a ray of light and hope for the remaining hostages and their families. Colombia has a great president. Amazing cooperation with the goverments of the U.S. and Colombia. Truely a great day. Keep up the great coverage CNN.

    New Jersey

    July 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  35. John Smith

    Congratulations to the armed forces of Colombia. Thank you President Uribe, thank you!

    Viva Colombia!

    July 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  36. Cynthia

    I was so elated when I saw the headline online this afternoon. Living in Central America I get to follow the news on the FARC a little more than most people in the States do.
    This nightmare of 6 years for Ingrid Betancourt and her family and of 5 years for the Americans has been reported wildly in Latin America, especially in the last few months.
    I am happy for the families of those rescued today and I can only hope the FARC will not retaliate against those who are still held captive by them.
    It is time the Colombian people regain control of their beautiful country and I hope they succeed.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  37. Annie Kate

    Yes it definitely gives the others hope. Sounds like a really slick rescue operation. I wouldn't be surprised if a movie was made about it!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  38. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    What a relief for the hostages and their families. 5 years of their lives, that they will never get back. My thoughts are with them all.

    July 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm |
  39. Genevieve M, TX

    I love this story about these hostages being freed! 🙂

    I hope more FARC hostages will be freed as time goes on- the sooner the better.

    July 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm |