BOGOTA – The father of army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, who has been held hostage by Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group for almost 12 years, arrived in Bogota after a foot journey of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles), during which he symbolically crucified himself on the cross of bamboo which he carried during his long march.
Gustavo Moncayo, a teacher also known as the “walker for peace,” concluded the latest of his marches in the Colombian capital on Saturday, marches which he has used to call for the liberation of his son and others who are still in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Moncayo arrived at the historic Bolivar Square accompanied by his brother Carlos, but because of administrative difficulties he was not allowed to remain at that site and was taken to a nearby church in downtown Bogota, where he will remain holding a vigil for at least a week.
“I’m doing the same work and asking for the release of the kidnapped people. Today, demanding that right from the government,” Moncayo said.
Before dozens of people, he undertook the symbolic act of crucifying himself, as he said he would do upon starting the march last Monday from the town of Melgar, some 100 kilometers south of Bogota.
The teacher once again called on President Alvaro Uribe to receive opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba to work out the logistics of his son’s release.
“Now the problem is not with the guerrillas but with the government,” the teacher said.
The FARC announced last April its intention of turning over Pablo Emilio Moncayo to Cordoba unilaterally, as well as the body of a police captain who died in captivity, but that release has not come about due to Uribe’s refusal to receive the congresswoman.
“Let the kidnapped people regain their freedom, (let) we Colombians be able to live in a different way and let there be no more anxiety of kidnapping,” the elder Moncayo said.
Doctors who observed Moncayo after his long journey recommended that he rest for several days.
The younger Moncayo was kidnapped on Dec. 21, 1997, at an army communications post in a mountainous region in southwestern Colombia.
The FARC are holding 23 police and soldiers whom they want to exchange for their own captured fighters in a humanitarian swap.