Colombian rebels released a video showing seven kidnapped police officers and soldiers -- some of whom have spent nearly a decade in captivity -- pleading for the government and rebels to negotiate their freedom.
The video was made by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and given to the news channel Al-Jazeera, Colombia's RCN news said. It played clips on Tuesday night.
In the video, soldier Giovanni Dominguez was able to shed more light on the conditions of the nation's most famous hostage, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, abducted five years ago with her campaign manager, Clara Rojas.
"In the camps, I have met with many prisoners of war and some detained politicians like Ingrid Betancourt and Mrs. Clara Rojas and a little boy that goes everywhere with them," Dominguez said.
He was almost certainly referring to three-year-old Emmanuel, a child Rojas is believed to have had with one of her captors.
"When Mrs. Clara gets tired of carrying the child, a guerrilla kindly offers to help her, which [the boy] loves because he likes to play horsey," said Dominguez, who like the others gives an individual message straight to camera.
The video 's release came ahead of a national march scheduled for yesterday that was expected to draw millions of Colombians to the streets and protest kidnapping and demand the liberation of all those kept in illegal captivity.
It was not clear when this latest so-called "proof of life" video was made, although the journalist who received the tape, Hollman Morris, estimated it could be between last October or this January.
Such videos, released about twice a year, are used by the rebels as a form of applying pressure on the government to open negotiations, a move supported by all the families of those kidnapped.
In a separate message on the video, soldier Pablo Emilio Moncayo pleads for Colombia President Alvaro Uribe to begin talks with the guerrillas.
"You have shown such skill in leading the country, and have opened two different negotiations for peace," Moncayo said, referring to talks with the ELN, and the far-right death squads. "Open up now another path in talking with the FARC."
Moncayo was kidnapped more than nine years ago when rebels stormed the army base where he was stationed. This message was the first his family had received from him in four years.
His father is walking across Colombia with a metal chain wrapped around his neck in solidarity with his son's captivity to pressure the guerrillas and the government to agree to free the hostages.