Gustavo Moncayo – the Colombian Forest Gump

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When I first read on the papers about Gustavo Moncayo I immediately remembered the movie “Forest Gump”: A touching story of a man that runs and runs and runs.

On June 17 Gustavo left his home town Sandoná in Nariño (State in the Colombian south-west) heading to the 1000 km distant Bogota, where he arrived 46 days later.

His driving force for this adventurous march was his son, who had been kidnapped by the FARC-guerrilla almost ten years ago and been held hostage ever since. In December 1997 a radio station of the Colombian army in Nariño was attacked by the FARC – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Ten soldiers died, four were injured and 18 young militaries were taken as hostages. Amongst them was Pablo Moncayo. In 2001 sixteen hostages from this group were released, consequence of an agreement between the State and the FARC, in exchange for fourteen ill guerrilla fighters. Pablo was not part of the released soldiers. He has now become the hostage who has been kept imprisoned the longest by the FARC.

“We are tired from all these swindling – almost ten years have gone by to win back freedom for the hostages!” says Pablo’s father.

He started his journey alone with his youngest daughter Yuri but after a few days more and more people joint the wanderers: former hostages, family members of kidnapped persons and people who wanted to show Gustavo their solidarity escorted him. Entire towns lined up on the streets when he passed by, many offered him and his escorts meals and accommodation, others were just aiming for a snapshot with Gustavo.

The “caminante por la paz” – walker for freedom – has become the symbol for a humanitarian way out of the hostage conflict and the source of hope for many Colombians. His objective is to win the governments and the FARCs attention to the urgency of an exchange of prisoners. He demands the hostages to be released through a humanitarian solution, meaning a peaceful and negotiated way instead of a military release operation. The last one is considered to be life threatening to the hostages for many reasons.

After his arrival in Bogota he has received enormous support, which generates pressure on the political leaders – but not on the FARC. This is why his way still must go on to places where the FARC is forced to listen to him. Gustavo planned originally to stay at the Plaza Bolivar until his son had been released. However by now it has become obvious that from here he only speaks to one party.

The FARC reacts rather to international pressure, specially that one coming from Europe. Over the years their effective PR efforts in Europe managed to create the image, the FARC was the rightful representative of the regular Colombian, the majority in the country.

According to what is planned Gustavo will march in September from Brussels to Paris. His journey aims to make Europeans aware, that Colombians are peace minded people and their own spokespersons when it comes to the liberation of the hostages. The FARC must deal with the proposals and tell the public the date by when the hostages will be released.

For more information read:
– Signatures in favour of a humanitarian release