Former U.S. hostages denounce Colombian rebels

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — Clutching their children, siblings, spouses and parents amid tears and applause, three former American hostages held captive for more than five years by Colombian guerrillas denounced their captors Monday as terrorists who kept them chained by their necks.

Their first public appearance since being released Wednesday was supposed to be brief, but South Florida resident Marc Gonsalves asked his Army hosts: "May I please break with the program?''

Then he spoke emotionally about the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, that took him and two fellow U.S. government defense contractors captive in February 2003 after their plane went down while on an anti-narcotics mission.

''I want to tell you about the FARC,'' Gonsalves said, speaking first in English and then in Spanish. "They say they want equality. They say they make Colombia a better place. It's a lie. They are terrorists with a capital 'T.' "

He characterized the rebels — who've been battling the Colombian government for more than 40 years and continue to hold some 700 other captives — as drug traffickers, extortionists and kidnappers who reject democracy and brainwash followers. He added that most of the FARC guerrillas are young, uneducated Colombians who can barely read or write.

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