Twenty-five members of Colombia's M-19 leftist guerrilla group, including its founder, Carlos Toledo Plata, were released from jail on December 4 under a new amnesty law.
GV PULL BACK TO LV Crowd in open area in Bogota
SV Relative and friends waving flags; police in front of them (3 SHOTS)
SV Young released prisoner embracing relative
SV Carlos Duplat walking towards crowd making solidarity movement with raised right arm; embracing elderly couple.
SV Alvaro Fayat, carrying child, and embracing woman.
SV Ex-prisoner hugging friends
TOP VIEW m-19 movement founder, Carlos Toledo Plata, swamped by well-wishers who hug him and pour confetti on his head
GV ZOOM IN TO SV Plata arriving to applause at Plaza de Bolivar
CU Plata speaking to Visnews reporter (Spanish SOT)
SV PAN FROM Statue TO crowd.
CU Rosemberg Pabon Pabon, siege commander, waving from lecturn
GV Released prisoners in line some holding wreath, as speaker addresses crowd, and welcoming Plata.
SV Ex-prisoners holding flag and singing
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Background: Twenty-five members of Colombia's M-19 leftist guerrilla group, including its founder, Carlos Toledo Plata, were released from jail on December 4 under a new amnesty law. The announcement that they were to be freed was made late on December 3 as President Reagan was ending a five-hour visit to Bogota for talks with President Balisario Betancur Cuartas. President Betancur is a populist conservative who views subversion in Colombia, and elsewhere in Latin America, mainly as a product of social injustice, and not of Cuban and Soviet expansionism. The new amnesty law excludes guerrillas convicted or accused of murder and kidnapping, but the M-19 group aimed to achieve a democratic and, ultimately, a socialist state by political means. However, they resorted to direct military-style action on a number of occasions, most notably in February 1980 when they took over the dominican Republic's embassy and held a dozen diplomats, including the United States Ambassador, as hostages. The siege ended two months later when Colombian authorities allowed the guerrillas to fly to Cuba. The commando leader of the siege, University professor Rosemberg Pabon Pabon, was among those released on December 4. Other key intellectual members of the M-19 group to be released included Carlos Duplat and Alvaro Fayat. However, it was the released of Carlos Toledo Plata, a former senator and the movement's ideological leader, which brought the greatest scenes of rejoicing tot he Colombian capital. Speaking to crowds at the Plaza de Bolivar, he thanked all those "democratically-minded people" who had made possible what he called the triumph of the Colombian people. He said the amnesty and the chance to hold talks with the government would allow the country to find the path to true democracy. About 60 guerrillas have been released following the amnesty offer signed by President Betancur in mid-November. It was aimed at granting pardons to the country's estimated 4,000 insurgents. Most of the M-19 members who have been freed were captured in March last year when the group launched a big, but disastrously-planned, offensive in the southern Narino province bordering Ecuador. They were tried by a military tribunal and received sentence of more than 20 years.