Suicide? Not Now, Herbin Hoyos is On The Air!


Ingrid Betancourt has been a hostage for six years now, incarcerated in the jungles of Colombia while her two children grew up. Within a few hours of her release she was addressing a press conference when the sight of one man in the audience made her break from the usual proceedings.

Via Andrea Jaramilo for Bloomberg:

“I’m sorry,” said Betancourt, 46, as she moved away from a microphone set up on the military airport runway in Bogota. “But this has to be a hug.”

She then embraced Herbin Hoyos, founder and host of “Voices of Kidnapping,” a radio program that relays messages from family members to people held captive by terrorists. Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, said the words read over the airwaves helped her fend off suicide.

“I never attempted it,” she said. “I put it off every day upon hearing my mom and my children on the radio.”

Once again we see the reach of radio bringing much needed human contact to those in need. In an age where 2,800 Colombians are held captive by terrorists, drug traffickers, and paramilitary groups it is hardly surprising to see a show of this nature evolve. Ms. Betancourt declared Hoyos a “friend for life” in the wake of her release along with 14 others last week.

Hoyos’ program, transmitted by Caracol Radio from midnight to 6 a.m. each Sunday, fields calls by the hundreds from the relatives and friends of those who are held hostage. The hope is that the captives will hear their family on the air, giving them hope and reminding them that people are working for their release.

Luis Eladio Perez, a 55-year-old former senator, said the radio was his “umbilical cord” during the seven years he was held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country’s biggest guerrilla group, which also held Betancourt.

FARC guerrillas gave Perez his radio — a silver, pocket- sized Sony — in mid-2001, days before chaining him by the neck to a tree. […]

“There comes a point when you want to die,” Perez said. The messages “make you remember that your family is fighting to get you out. You have to hold on. You have to eat. And you have to exercise. You just have to try to stay alive.”

This does point out an odd symbiosis that seems to have developed. Guerillas and other captors have taken to passing out radios to their hostages in an attempt to help keep them from committing suicide. Hoyas himself notes that the goal of keeping the victims alive is one that is shared by the families and by the kidnappers in what he terms “a cruel mutual need.”

Nonetheless Caracol Radio continues to reach out through the steaming subtropical jungles, bringing the reassuring voices of family members as they offer moral support to their missing loved ones.

If not for radio, Ms. Betancourt’s family might have never seen her again. If you’d like to learn more about this unique radio show, the original Bloomberg article tells the story of how Hoyos created it in the wake of his own kidnapping in 1994.

Welcome back, Ingrid! Congratulations from the Radio2020 team!

Photo courtesy of FlashStef, used under its Creative Commons license


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