New sibling, new technology surprises long-time hostage (Feature)
By Rodrigo Ruiz Tovar Apr 1, 2010, 3:58 GMT
Bogota - Life was hectic for Colombian soldier Pablo Emilio Moncayo a day after his release from 12 years of jungle captivity in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Moncayo, FARC's longest-held hostage, was captured as a baby- faced, 19-year-old Army corporal and freed Tuesday as a grizzled, 31- year-old sergeant.
Reunited with his family on an airport runway in the southern Colombian city of Florencia, Moncayo's mother, Maria Cabrera, held two wonders that didn't exist when he last saw civilization: a digital camera and a little sister.
Four-year-old Laura Valentina was visibly the highlight of the moment for Moncayo, who held the little girl in his arms and kissed her profusely.
The soldier's father, Gustavo Moncayo, who drew global attention to his son's plight in recent years by hiking with chained hands across Colombia and beyond to demand his son's release, described how his son recited a poem for the sister he had just met.
'Laura Valentina became his inspiration. I found that very beautiful,' said the elder Moncayo, a schoolteacher in the south- western Colombian town of Sandona.
Following a brief meeting with his family in Florencia, the soldier was taken late Tuesday to a military hospital in Bogota, where he underwent a medical examination.
Hospital director Nohra Rodriguez said that Moncayo has symptoms of hypoglycemia and bears several scars from six bouts of leishmaniasis, a disfiguring skin disease caused by a parasite that thrives in jungle conditions.
Foregoing consultations with psychiatrists and other specialists, Moncayo left the military hospital within hours, heading for a military base in northern Bogota. Hospital officials said he insisted on leaving to spend time with his family.
Gustavo Moncayo described how he awoke Wednesday, as if in a dream, and listened to Maria bringing their son up to date on family matters.
'I felt too much excitement when I opened my eyes and saw that he was talking to his mum,' Gustavo said, almost in tears.
While he tried to work out how to make his new camera work, the soldier had breakfast with members of the extended family in Bogota. A private celebration was planned for Wednesday evening.
In his initial comments to reporters, soon after he arrived in Florencia aboard a Brazilian military helicopter used to fetch the prisoner from a secret jungle rendezvous with the rebels, Moncayo asked international organizations to keep up efforts for the release of more than 20 Colombian troops and police officers still held by FARC.
He spoke calmly and said that he had made a decision about his future. But he offered no details, yet.