French-Colombian former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt returns to Colombia on Friday to celebrate the second anniversary of “Operation Checkmate,” which saw her rescued along with fourteen other hostages.
Betancourt will join other freed hostages, Colombia’s defense minister, and high military commanders at a ceremony in Bogota, to pay tribute to those that carried out the rescue and are fighting to free remaining FARC hostages.
Betancourt, who was freed on July 2, 2008 after spending six years in FARC captivity, said that even after two years, she is still trying to recover for her harrowing experience.
“For me, even after two years of freedom, it is a very slow process to find peace, each time I think back on the release process it is very difficult to hold back the tears. There are very strong emotions, we are in the [recovery] process and I hope we can move forward,” Betancourt told Caracol Radio.
Three other high-profile hostages who spent time with Betancourt in the FARC jungle camps, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell, all from the U.S., will also participate in the anniversary ceremony.
Betancourt, who left Colombia shortly after she was freed in the daring rescue operation, has only returned once to her native land, spending a few hours in Colombia in November 2008.
The former Colombian presidential candidate, who was kidnapped in 2002 while on campaign, became a global symbol of the group’s terrorist activities in Colombia
FARC guerrillas still hold between seventeen and nineteen soldiers and police officers, who they seek to use to use in negotiations for the release of some 500 guerrillas in jail across Colombia.