Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian former politician freed after
six years held by FARC guerrillas, said Friday she was “totally
convinced” the remaining hostages in the hands of the Colombian rebels
would be freed next year.
“I’m convinced that this will be the last Christmas my companions
will pass in captivity. I am totally convinced that the following
Christmas I will be with them, in liberty,” she told a media conference
in Sao Paulo.
Betancourt was on a tour of South America to draw
attention to the continued plight of those still detained by the rebel
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
She spoke specifically
about 28 hostages the FARC was holding as political prisoners with the
aim of exchanging them for its members held in Colombian and US jails.
The rebel group is also holding an estimated 700 other hostages, most
of them ordinary Colombian citizens seized for ransom.
herself was freed in July this year in a military operation in which
Colombian soldiers posed as aid workers to rescue her and 14 other
hostages. The United States, France and Israel were all reportedly also
involved in that operation.
Betancourt, 46, was abducted in 2002
as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency. After her rescue, she
moved to France, where she earlier gained nationality through marriage
to her first husband, a French diplomat.
She said that while her
own rescue operation was “clean, perfect,” such a ruse would not work
again because the FARC were now alerted.
“There’s an expression in Colombia … You won’t take a dog to be castrated twice,” she explained.
she said, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe must open negotiations with
the FARC, adding that while she agreed with the Colombian military
crackdown against the rebels, “it wasn’t enough.”
high-priority hostages held by the FARC “are at this moment still
hoping for negotiations between the government of President Uribe and
They “depend entirely on the will of the FARC and the will of President Uribe,” she said.
stressed that she currently saw no place for the FARC as a political
party, saying it was a “dehumanizing” organization relying on rigid
Marxist ideology from the 1950s.
“I think there are only two alternatives for the FARC: reform or die,” she said.
For herself, Betancourt said she was concentrating on writing as a way to overcome the trauma of her years spent in the jungle.
“I still have nightmares today,” she said, her eyes shining with the emotion of her recollections.
She added that she was now set on a path that was taking her well away from the political ambitions she held years ago.
“I am not going to aspire to the Colombian presidency,” she stated flatly.
am not going to aspire to public office in Colombia. I don’t want to
aspire to anything that has to do with politics in Colombia.”
her years of captivity, she said, “I deserve my freedom. And my freedom
is also having the choice to do what I want to do.”
In the short term, that meant lobbying South American presidents to do more to ensure the remaining FARC hostages were released.
kicking off her tour to the region in Colombia — her first trip back
since her release — she has already gone to Ecuador, Chile, Peru and
Argentina this week to speak to leaders.
In Sao Paulo, she met
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whom she described as
“extraordinary” in his role to work for the hostages’ liberation.
After speaking to reporters, she flew on to Bolivia, where authorities said she would be treated as “an honored guest.”
Betancourt was then to wrap up her tour with a visit to Venezuela. (AFP)