Romeo Langlois said he was not embittered, but he criticized the rebels for using his capture for propaganda purposes. They freed him on their movement’s 48th anniversary on a specially built stage, hanging pro-peace banners in this remote southern hamlet and organizing a barbecue.
But the rebels and the roughly 2,000 people they convened for the handover to a humanitarian commission coordinated by the International Red Cross applauded vigorously when Langlois said he appreciated how the guerrillas “live in the mud and risk their lives.”
“They never tied me up,” Langlois, 35, said of his Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia captors. “Rather, they always treated me as a guest. They gave me good food … They were always respectful.
Residents of San Isidro, which lacks running water and electricity and lives off cattle and coca, slaughtered six calves for the occasion, and rebel commanders gave brief speeches, expressing their desire for peace.
Before the handover, a public address system played FARC revolutionary songs as farmers converged on the hamlet. Theirs is a region of deep jungles, fast-moving rivers and villages that appear on no maps.
Communal leaders complained of the state’s absence: the lack of health care and poor roads that prevent them from getting their crops to market.
Langlois won applause when he said he understood why locals “cultivate their little bit of coca so they can buy bread and notebooks for their children.”