Colombia: “I have closed the door on the past and am looking to the future”
“I was deprived of my liberty for 12 years and 9 months. I was a sub-inspector in the police and third in command in the counter-guerrilla team in Puerto Rico, Meta. The operation to take the municipality began on 10 June 1999 and ended at dawn on 12 June. We were fighting the whole time, but we did not have enough backup or ammunition and we had to do what they told us and give ourselves up. I was 36 at the time and had a wife and three children.
During my time in captivity we moved about constantly from one place to another: Meta, Guaviare, Guainía, Vichada and Vaupés. The 28 of us who had been involved in the operation to take Puerto Rico stayed together as a group for about two years. Then they freed those without rank and just the commissioned officers remained. They divided us up into groups of eight to ten. We never lost hope, but it was very difficult.
To pass the time, Alan Jara tried to teach us Russian, but it was very hard, and we also learned some English. We received visits from doctors sometimes and, during the first few years, we got mail from our families. After that, all we had was the radio. We heard that we were going to be released in October 2011, but then things dragged on. What could we think? We thought it might all go up in smoke, but we had to continue believing. They told us that we could trust in their word.
We had to hang on for a while longer, but at last the big day arrived. We were freed. When we were in the helicopter with the ICRC delegates returning to Villavicencio, we didn’t feel anything at all. I don’t know, it was strange. I always thought that those who suffered most in this case were our families. We at least knew how we were and what was going on, but our families didn’t know anything and that was very distressing for them.
On the whole, getting back to a life of freedom has been a normal process. We haven’t had too many problems adjusting, except with technology. I was able to put the experience behind me and return to a normal life. I have some health problems, such as amoebiasis, and I can’t eat dairy products or sweet things. I think of it as a door that I have closed on the past; now it is time to look to the future. This is the most pragmatic attitude that will allow me to become reintegrated into society. We were the last group to be freed and, fortunately, everything worked out and all 10 of us made it.”