Their liberation came 10 days after an initial mission orchestrated by Chávez to free the women – plus the small child of Rojas who was born in captivity – was aborted abruptly after the revelation that the FARC were not in fact in possession of the boy.
Following a series of delays, the December release operation was called off on New Year's Eve when Mr. Uribe revealed that the rebels were dragging their feet on the announced handover because the boy they had promised to release had actually been in custody of Colombia's child protection services in Bogotá since 2005. DNA tests and a FARC admission confirmed Uribe's shocking announcement.
Victory for Chávez and Uribe
It was a victory for Uribe over the FARC and for Chávez, whom Uribe had grudgingly allowed to organize the handover operations. Embarrassed by having been fooled by the FARC, Chávez remained uncharacteristically quiet in the days that followed. But on Wednesday, Chávez announced that he had finally received the coordinates of where the two women would be dropped off by their captors.
Uribe had little choice but to allow the fiery leftist leader – who's called him a "puppet" and "lapdog" of Washington – to organize a new mission, but demanded it be done discreetly and "with respect for the Colombian government."
Despite the setback over the boy, the FARC now have the upper hand, analysts say. "The release will renew pressure on the government to make concessions for a wider agreement on the other hostages," says Román Ortiz, a security analyst with the Bogotá think tank Ideas Para la Paz.
Bruce Bagley, a Colombia analyst at the University of Miami, says that after the release the FARC will be expecting a response from the government. "They'll be thinking: 'OK, we made a gesture, now you make a gesture,' " he says.
Pressure to release more hostages