Successful Hostage Rescue Could Lead to a Third Term for Uribe

Successful Hostage Rescue Could Lead to a Third Term for Uribe

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- The stunning rescue by Colombian soldiers of 15 guerrilla hostages, including three American contractors and a one-time presidential candidate, brings the government closer to victory in its long civil war. This latest success could also pave the way for an unprecedented third term for President Álvaro Uribe, a prospect that worries some analysts.

In the meticulously planned operation, the Colombian military infiltrated the communications network of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and convinced units holding prominent hostages that a guerrilla leader wanted the hostages transported to another region. In a jungle clearing in southern Colombia, surrounded by dozens of armed guerrillas, two guerrilla commanders and 15 manacled hostages boarded a disguised helicopter. But, instead of another guerrilla camp, the hostages were flown to freedom and the guerrillas to prison.

The freed hostages include Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate kidnapped in 2002, three United States military contractors whose small plane was shot down in 2003 while hunting for illegal drug crops, and 11 police and soldiers. The guerrillas had wanted to trade the hostages' liberty for the freedom of hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.

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