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Colombian Defense Chief Describes Risks, Planning for Hostage Rescue

Following the dramatic rescue of fifteen hostages in Columbia by government forces, some held by rebels for years, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos describes events and planning leading up to the rescue effort.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, yesterday's hostage rescue in Colombia. We begin with a report narrated by NewsHour correspondent Tom Bearden.

  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Ingrid Betancourt was in a hurry this morning. And little wonder: the former Colombian presidential candidate was on her way to an emotional reunion more than six years in the making.

    She raced towards the French government jet that brought her children, Melanie and Lorenzo, from Paris, where they live with their father. Betancourt, who holds French and Colombian citizenship, lives, once again, with her second husband in Bogota.

  • INGRID BETANCOURT, Former Hostage (through translator):

    I gave them many kisses, and to feel them, to touch them, to see them, so different and so alike at the same time. To see them so beautiful, because I think they are beautiful.

  • MELANIE DELLOYE, Ingrid Betancourt’s Daughter (through translator):

    We were afraid the military operations would be deadly, and we never wanted to put my mommy's life at risk, or that of the other hostages that were with her. But this was not a military operation; it was an intelligence operation. It was done perfectly.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    The "perfect operation" freed Betancourt and 14 others. Among them were three U.S. Defense Department contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell. They'd been held for more than five years.

    Eleven Colombian soldiers were also rescued, but the FARC still holds more than 700 hostages.

    GEORGE GONSALVES, Father of Freed Hostage: What a way to celebrate the Fourth of July. It's just — this is the best.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    Last night, Marc Gonsalves' father, George, spoke to reporters at his home in Connecticut.

  • GEORGE GONSALVES:

    All those Christmases, all those birthdays, all those special occasions, all those vacations, all those times that you want to just say hello to your son, how are you doing, all those times that I couldn't say that or do that, I'm going to have a chance to do that.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    The three Americans were taken from Colombia on U.S. military jets for medical treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Late today, doctors spoke with reporters to update their conditions.

  • COL. JACKIE HAYES, Physician, Brooke Army Medical Center:

    They are all in very good physical condition, very strong. The results of the tests are pending at this point in time, but everything really looks well.

    They're in great spirits. And we're continuing the medical evaluation process as we speak, and hopefully everything will come back negative. So everything looks good at this point in time.