By Dialogo June 14, 2010 Four uniformed personnel, including a police general, kidnapped by the FARC guerrilla group almost twelve years ago, have been rescued in the jungles of southeastern Colombia, Colombian defense Minister Gabriel Silva said. The rescued hostages are Police Gen. Luis Mendieta, Police Col. Enrique Murillo, and Army Sgt. Arbey Delgado, who are currently “being well protected by three hundred military personnel” in the area where the rescue took place, the jungle department of Guaviare, according to Silva. A fourth member of the uniformed services, Col. William Donato, was found in good health after taking refuge among trees more than 260 feet (80 meters) tall, Gen. Freddy Padilla said. Colombian authorities say they found a Donato in the jungle, a day after he fled for his life and became lost during a confrontation between his captors and government troops conducting a surprise hostage rescue. General Mendieta – the highest-ranking hostage the guerrilla group had been holding – and Colonel Murillo were kidnapped on 1 November 1998 in an attack on Mitú, the capital of the department of Vaupés (in southeastern Colombia, on the border with Brazil), at which time the former had the rank of colonel and the latter that of captain. Sergeant Delgado and Colonel Donato were taken hostage on 3 August 1998 following a bloody attack on a police anti-narcotics base in the town of Miraflores (Guaviare). The uniformed personnel will be transferred to Bogotá Monday morning, the commander of the armed forces, General Freddy Padilla, announced. Despite the fact that Silva characterized ‘Operation Camaleón’ as “impeccable,” Padilla reported that a sergeant died during the operation, although not at the rescue site. Minister Silva announced that the authorities will continue to seek the liberation of the remaining military and police personnel held hostage. “We are happy. Those who have been kidnapped from us are not alone; this demonstrates it,” he indicated. President Álvaro Uribe, who during his eight years in office, which will end on 7 August, pursued an “iron fist” policy against the FARC, had announced the rescue of the general and the colonel hours earlier. “The joint operations command of our armed forces has just rescued General Mendieta and Colonel Murillo,” Uribe said in the city of Quibdó, the capital of Chocó (in northwestern Colombia). Sunday was Mendieta’s fifty-third birthday. “I’m happy; my prayers have finally been answered. It’s his birthday; it’s the best present for my husband and myself. I’m finally going to be able to celebrate his birthday with him. I can’t wait to hug him,” his wife, María Teresa, declared in a voice choked with emotion. Sebastián Murillo, an eleven-year-old boy born after his father was kidnapped, said about the father he has never met, “The first thing I’m going to tell him is that I love him, that I’ve missed him a lot.” The rescue of the uniformed personnel is a new success for the government in its efforts to free all the FARC’s hostages without negotiations. In July 2008, in a military operation worthy of Hollywood, Colombian-Frenchwoman Ingrid Betancourt, three Americans, and eleven Colombian military and police personnel were rescued. The new rescue comes a week before the second round of presidential voting, which will pit administration candidate Juan Manuel Santos against independent Antanas Mockus. Santos, then defense minister, directed the operation that rescued Betancourt and the other fourteen hostages. He then resigned to launch his presidential campaign, in which he has a wide lead heading into the balloting, according to the polls. Santos announced that if he wins the election, he will continue working to rescue the other uniformed personnel.