“I thought he was a guerrilla’s son”

The farmer who saved a FARC kidnap victim’s baby is the subject of a new film starring Luis Tosar

José Crisanto Gómez was handed the sick baby of FARC kidnap victim Clara Rojas.
José Crisanto Gómez was handed the sick baby of FARC kidnap victim Clara Rojas.CARLOS ROSILLO

They arrived from across the Irinida river carrying a bruised and malnourished six-month-old baby with a broken arm and ulcerated body caused by a leishmaniasis infection.

It was January 11, 2005, and a group of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas appeared in the Sierra de la Macarena, in the south of the country, in order to leave the baby in the care of José Crisanto Gómez, a coca farmer and father of five. “He arrived in an awful state,” Crisanto Gómez recalls in Madrid. “They chose me because my father-in-law was a witch doctor and they thought he could do something to save the boy.

“I thought he was the son of some guerrilla or commandant, or even of someone they had kidnapped and assassinated and instead of throwing the baby in the river, brought it to me.”

Never could he have imagined that he was the son of the lawyer Clara Rojas, who had been kidnapped three years before along with the politician Íngrid Betancourt. At that time, it wasn’t even known that Rojas had become a mother while imprisoned in the jungle.

Politely and calmly, Crisanto Gómez explains how, since that day, he has found himself enveloped in an extremely delicate and dangerous situation. “I am a direct victim of the Colombian conflict provoked by the FARC, the paramilitaries, the state and a legal system that leaves a lot to be desired,” he says.

The life of this farmer, now a father of seven and separated from his wife, has now been brought to the big screen in the new film Operación E. Directed by French-Spanish filmmaker Miguel Courtois Paternina, it stars Luis Tosar (Cell 211) in the role of Crisanto Gómez and is due to be released in Spain on December 5.

Crisanto wept and embraced Tosar after seeing the movie last Monday. “I’m emotional that this reality is being shown to the world, when in my country they try to hide it. It is extremely important that the world knows what thousands of peasants — who have been victims of a conflict for which they have had no responsibility — have gone through. The mountains of Colombia are full of bodies of humble people, without forgetting the more than four million who have been displaced.”

But it was when Juan David — the name in which Crisanto Gómez registered the little one at the San José hospital, where he left it in the care of a state-run charity — became Emmanuel that things became more difficult for Crisanto Gómez. The son of Clara Rojas was at the center of negotiations between FARC and the Colombian and Venezuelan governments over the lawyer’s liberation.

As well as death threats from the FARC, who wanted him to return the child, then in the care of a woman in Bogota, he was also accused of kidnap, rebellion, false testimony and procedural fraud by the public prosecutor and given a four-year prison sentence, finally being released last April.

He hasn’t seen Emmanuel since. “I’m not in a position to judge anybody, and least of all someone who suffered the scourge of kidnap, but Clara Rojas has shown a lot of ingratitude,” he says. “She has no right to question or attack me. The only thing I did was save the life of her son, despite all the adversity I and my own children suffer for it.”

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