Monday, January 14, 2008

Freed Colombian hostage meets with son

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) --

Colombia's child welfare agency has granted freed hostage Clara Rojas full custody of the 3-year-old son taken from her during her years in a rebel camp in the jungle, the agency's director said Sunday.

"Emmanuel must be with his mother," Elvira Forero, the head of the Child Welfare Institute of Colombia, told reporters. "He must enjoy this right that has been taken away from him by the FARC."

Clara Rojas was captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in 2002 while campaigning for presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

She paid a private visit to the boy in a foster home Sunday, with a photo of him hanging around her neck. Watch Rojas, son reunited »

Emmanuel was handed to state health services with a broken arm and leishmaniasis -- a parasitic disease that causes fever, coughing and diarrhea -- after he was taken away from his mother.

He will undergo a series of psychological and medical exams and could be returned to his mother in two weeks, Forero said.

"He spent his first 11 months of life with a fractured arm, without any medical support that would help him cope with his pain," said Forero. "Today, he is a happy boy. He is sweet and loving and has developed, thanks to the general attention given to him by our institute."

The guerrillas released Rojas and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez on Thursday in a deal brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The rebels continue to hold more than 700 hostages, including Betancourt.

Rojas told reporters Sunday that Emmanuel was born two years into her captivity, via a caesarian section performed by inexperienced guerrilla fighters despite her plea for medical help.

"In January 2004 they separated me from the rest of the group and set up a small bed for me alone in a camp," she said. "I had to walk a little way to get water for bathing and for washing clothes, and I prayed for the peace of mind to be able to get through the birth."

Rojas said she did not know the whereabouts of the boy's father.

"I've had no word about the father of my son. I'm not even sure he knows he's the father," she said.

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