Ingrid Betancourt won a prestigious humanitarian award in Spain on
Wednesday in recognition of her bravery and fight for democracy.
The former Colombian presidential candidate said she was dedicating
the prize to the many other Colombians who have been held captive by
the country’s leftist rebels.
Betancourt received a Prince of Asturias prize in a category that
honors those who work for peace or fight poverty, injustice or disease,
or otherwise endeavor to help mankind.
The dual Colombian-French citizen was freed by the Colombian
military in July along with 14 other hostages in a daring, covert
military rescue operation.
“Ingrid Betancourt has become a world symbol of freedom and human
resistance in the face of the toughest adversities,” the jury said in a
statement. “Her fight for democracy has been a hopeful example of
dignity and bravery for the whole world.”
It added: “Ingrid Betancourt personifies all those in the world who
are denied freedom for defending human rights as well as the fight
against terrorist violence, corruption and drug trafficking.”
Betancourt reacted saying she did not deserve the prize but her
country does — “my beloved homeland, Colombia, thirsty for harmony
Betancourt said she wished to accept the prize on behalf of other
Colombians with whom she was held hostage, some of whom she said remain
in captivity and others who died during it.
“I would like this prize to ease the sadness of their families, in
recognition of their great sacrifice,” she said in a statement released
by the Prince of Asturias Foundation.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have a
long-standing policy of kidnapping for ransom or political leverage.
Latin America’s last major rebel army holds dozens of hostages in
Colombian jungle jails, some for more than a decade.
The award is one of eight handed out each year by a foundation named
for Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe. The other categories include sports,
literature and communications.
Last year’s prize in this category went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and research center in Israel.
The awards are handed out in October in Oviedo, capital of the
Asturias region. Felipe’s official title is Prince of Asturias. (AP)