The National Liberation Army, or ELN, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, on Sunday turned over to a humanitarian commission agricultural engineer Leon Andres Montes Ceballos, whom it had kidnapped last year.
The International Committee of the Red Cross - which was part of the humanitarian mission along with the archbishop of Cali, Monsignor Dario de Jesus Monsalve, and the head of the Jesuit Community in Colombia, Francisco de Roux - reported the release in a communique.
The release of Montes Ceballos took place in a rural area in the northern part of the northwestern province of Antioquia and doctors said that the former captive was in good enough physical shape to travel to the town of Caucasia.
“It pleases us immensely to have contributed to putting an end to the suffering of this family and facilitating their reunion after such a long wait,” Gregoire Castella, the head of the Red Cross regional delegation in the city of Medellin, the capital of Antioquia, said.
“I’m very happy. Many thanks for their support to my family; being able to hear them was stimulating, oxygen in the jungle,” said the engineer in remarks to the media after his release.
Montes Ceballos also said he bore no ill will toward the ELN. “We have to continue moving forward. Forgiveness is the key to moving forward. I have no resentment,” he said.
He also said that he feels “very optimistic” that his release “may be a ... gesture” that might lead to a peace dialogue between the Colombian government and the ELN.
The 33-year-old Montes Ceballos was taken captive on July 30, 2012, in Amalfi, a city in Antioquia, and since then his family had received at least two messages containing proof that he was alive via the La Sierra Agricultural Company, the Chilean firm for which he was working when he was abducted.
On Nov. 5, the ELN announced their intention to release the engineer for “humanitarian” reasons, but they demanded that the Chilean multinational first leave Colombia.