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June 14

One Almost Thinks It´s Unreal

By Nubia Camacho (SP)

Bogotá, June 14, 2010 (SP). “One was not ready for the world to change overnight.,” said Police Colonel Enrique Munillo, a few minutes alter arriving to Casa de Nariño, while he waited to meet with President  Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez. 

Tall, wearing his impecable uniform, and with a spark in his eyes that is only shared by those who find themselves free, he explained that his world had changed from the chaos and incertitude of the jungle, to the solemnity and beauty of Casa de Nariño, which he reached this Monday at 6pm, to receive the President´s greeting.

Still in awe of the miracle of freedom, almost 12 years alter an infamous kindapping by FARC terrorists, he confessed that he did not know what he would say to the President one he stood in front of him. 

“I don´t know. I have never been next to a President. I know him from a magazine. And I don´t know what the President´s protocol is… We´ll see what I´m inspired to say at that moment,” he said, smiling.

A few steps from him was the Mendieta family: General Luis Herlindo, his wife María Teresa, and his children, Jenny and José Luis.

They say that, upon entering Casa de Nariño through Flag Hall, the General observed the magesty edifice´s magesty. He saw the red carpet upon which his bright shoes rested and rubbed his shoes against it a couple of times.

Now he was there, with his family, also waiting for President Uribe. He held on to the hand of the woman who, with patience, fortitude, and unbounded love, had waited for him for 12 years. 

“I am still living in a dream. Because to be free was something impossible, something incredible. These are all astounding experiences,“ he said.

His daughter, Jenny, passed him the cellphone so he could say hello to someone. The general took it, smiled kindly and, with a whisper, was heard saying “imagie all that happened.”

We asked María Teresa what she felt. She leaned her head against the general’s shoulder and spoke a single word: “gratitude.”

Later she added that, a number of times, in the midst of the tragedy of her husband’s kidnapping, she had met with the President. “He is a very kind person,” she said.

Meanwhile, the commanders of the Military Forces and the Army, Generals Freddy Padilla de León and Óscar González, Defense Minister Gabriel Silva, Police Director General Óscar Naranjo, Vice President Francisco Santos, and some ministers, arrived at the parlor.

It was all hugs and happiness.

The Vice President arrived a few minutes before President Uribe entered. “You are role models for all of us,” he told the three officers and Sargeant Arbey Delgado.

Delgado, who was an escolt of generals for four years, was now greeted with honors by the country’s generals. The subofficer explained this while he fiddled with his camouflage beret and with eyes so large they seemed to want to see everything at once. 
A little befote 7pm, the President arrived at the parlor. He had replaced the informal jacket and plaid shirt he had worn while presiding over a Manizales City Council with a gray suit and a blue tie.

He greeted them one by one. While he shook General Mendieta’s hand, the officer told him: “It is a miracle to be here.”

Colonel William Donato told the President of his tortuous return to freedom. He confessed he was very frightened while hiding in the jungle but that when he heard the saw with which the soldiers improvised a heliport, he came out.

A few minutes later, the four rescued men and the President proceded to the Conference Room to tell the country and the world, about the Public Force’s new feat. “This is like a dream. One almost thinks it´s unreal,” said General Mendieta while he walked to the room where his family, a group of journalists, and his country, awaited him. 



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