Colombian politician has love child with her guerrilla captor

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The Independent US

Colombia has been shocked by claims that one of its most celebrated kidnap victims has had a love child with a guerrilla captor at a secret jungle prison camp.

Clara Rojas, who was running for vice-president to the French Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt when they were seized by left-wing Farc rebels four years ago, reportedly gave birth to a boy, now two years old, after a consensual relationship with a Farc guerrilla.

The claims in the book Latest News From the War, by the Colombian journalist Jorge Enrique Botero, has led to fevered speculation in a country renowned as the kidnap capital of the world, and 40 years of internal conflicts.

There are as many as 1,500 hostages being held by several groups in the country including drug cartels and right-wing paramilitaries, but hostage-taking has become synonymous with the Farc guerrilla group.

Based mainly in the remote jungle areas of the country and funded by the cocaine trade, the left-wing rebels have fought a decades-long and bloody campaign against successive governments, costing thousands of lives.

The kidnapping of the Paris-educated Ms Betancourt and her running mate is deeply controversial in Colombia, as the pair repeatedly had been warned by authorities not to campaign in Farc-controlled areas of the country. They were captured on 23 February 2002 and there has been no proof to relatives that they are still alive for the past two years.

Ms Betancourt's French husband has led a high- profile campaign to secure her release and the centre right government of the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has come under diplomatic pressure to negotiate with the rebels. The rebels are also holding three civilian US Defence Department contractors who were seized in 2003.

Botero is the only journalist to have interviewed the Americans in captivity and said that he had verified the existence of the two-year-old boy with senior Farc members.

"I hope that this child can become a symbol of the tragedy that we have been living through,"Botero said. "The child is not the result of rape or something forced. He is the result of a relationship."

The impact of his book remains unclear, with President Uribe refusing to negotiate with a group he accuses of running a multibillion-pound cocaine trade disguised as a left-wing guerrilla group. Botero quoted a Farc leader as saying that the boy, who remains with his mother in a jungle camp, was "half ours and half theirs". The author said that Ms Rojas and her unidentified lover were no longer together.

The US claims Farc is responsible for two-thirds of the global trade in cocaine.