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Former Colombian Hostage Praises VOA Broadcasts

'Kept us in contact with the world,' he tells VOA

Washington, D.C., May 16, 2008 – In an exclusive interview, Luis Eladio Pérez, former Colombian Senator and hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, praised the Voice of America (VOA) for helping him and his fellow hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, feel connected to current events and the outside world.

"During the day when we didn’t have access to the local AM and FM Colombian radio stations, we listened to the Voice of America," Pérez said. "It was one of the radio stations that kept us in contact with the world, with reality."

Pérez named as his fellow hostages former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, held since February 2002; police officer John Pinchao, who escaped his captors last year; and three American defense contractors (Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes) who have been held since February 2003. All, he said, used VOA to keep their minds alert and working.

"Thanks to VOA, we knew what was going on and it gave us the opportunity to analyze what was happening in the USA, the political campaign, what was happening in Europe," explained Pérez.

Excerpts from the interview aired today on the VOA Noticias television program and on VOA radio, and will be posted on VOA’s Spanish-language website:

VOA Noticias is a 22-minute live newscast from Washington Monday through Friday, covering news developments in Latin America and the world, along with reports from Washington, D.C. and the United States. On weekends, it provides a news summary of the top stories and highlights of the week. VOA Noticias airs at 2100 UTC (5:00 p.m. EDT), and repeats at 2130 UTC (5:30 p.m. EDT).

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,250 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail