‘Hostage brothers' urged to keep hope

Freed after years as rebel-held hostages, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and four Colombian police officers sent messages of hope in a radio broadcast Sunday to captives still detained in remote jungle camps.

The former hostages appeared on an all-night radio program aimed at rebel captives and wept as they recalled their ordeal, which ended four days ago when Colombian agents duped guerrillas and airlifted 15 hostages to freedom.

“Hostage brothers, what happened to us has more than proved that God exists,” said police Cpl. John Jairo Duran. “Don't let yourselves be conquered by sadness. We never thought it would be our turn to be free, and it was. Your turn is very near.”

Bogota's Caracol Radio has broadcast the weekly “Voices of Kidnapping” program for the benefit of rebel-held hostages for 14 years, inviting their relatives to call in with messages that hostages often are able to hear via portable radio.

In a surprise call from France, where she traveled after her liberation, Betancourt sent “a big hug” and words of encouragement to those left behind.

“Have no doubt that I will continue fighting so all of you return to freedom,” she said on the program, transmitted nationwide every Sunday from midnight until daybreak. “Now that I'm free, I'm going to try to do what I can in Colombia and other countries to put an end to kidnapping.”

Betancourt said French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already ordered French officials to try to resume contact with the guerrillas in hopes of freeing other hostages.

Betancourt was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, while running for Colombia's presidency in 2002. She said she plans to stay in France for now and won't return to Bogota for a July 20 march to demand the release of other hostages.