BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA - Freed after years as rebel-held hostages, politician Ingrid Betancourt and four Colombian police officers sent radio messages of hope Sunday to captives still detained in remote jungle camps.
They appeared on a program aimed at the captives and wept as they recalled their ordeal, which ended last week when Colombian agents duped guerrillas into releasing 15 hostages.
"Hostage brothers, what happened to us has more than proved that God exists," said police Cpl. John Jairo Duran. "Don't let yourselves be conquered by sadness. We never thought it would be our turn to be free, and it was. Your turn is very near."
Bogota's Caracol Radio has broadcast the weekly "Voices of Kidnapping" program for the benefit of rebel-held hostages for 14 years, inviting their relatives to call in with messages that hostages often are able to hear via portable radio.
In a surprise call from France, where she traveled after her liberation, Betancourt, who has dual French and Colombian citizenship, sent "a big hug" and words of encouragement to those left behind.
"Have no doubt that I will continue fighting so all of you return to freedom," she told the program. "Now that I'm free, I'm going to try to do what I can in Colombia and other countries to put an end to kidnapping."
Betancourt said French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already ordered French officials to try to resume contact with the guerrillas in an attempt to help free other hostages.
Betancourt was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, while running for Colombia's presidency in 2002. She said she plans to stay in France for now.
"I think I have to stay here. From here I can contribute much more," said Betancourt, who has previously said that she plans to ultimately live in Colombia. She speculated that "imprudence" contributed to her kidnapping and said, "I made my family suffer a lot."
Colombia's government says the FARC still holds about 700 hostages for political leverage and ransom.