The Colombian government and vast numbers of the Colombian public on Friday strongly criticized the revelation that former hostage Ingrid Betancourt is seeking $6.6 million from the Colombian state as compensation for the six years she spent in FARC captivity.
The government’s response
In a press release, Vice President Francisco Santos called Betancourt’s petition “greedy, ungrateful and opportunistic, which deserves the rejection of all Colombians and world opinion.”
“It is a world prize in ingratitude and cheek. I am indignant, sad and disappointed. In my condition as a victim of kidnapping this pains me immensely, which is without a doubt one of the acts of ingratitude… that will go down in Colombian history,” said Santos, who himself was kidnapped by infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar‘s Medellin cartel in 1990.
Santos stressed what former Peace Commissioner Camilo Gonzalez said earlier Friday that the day of her kidnapping, Betancourt had “signed a document in which she assumed total responsibility for her decision to enter a zone where there was a registered constant presence of members of the FARC and in which in effect she was kidnapped.”
The vice president said that Betancourt’s attitude and behavior in seeking state compensation do not correspond to an intelligent woman with a public career, who had received so much from Colombia.
“I do not understand what happened… it sets a disastrous precedent and is a blow for all the members of the public forces who died rescuing Colombians, for all those who participated in ‘Operation Checkmate’ risking their own lives… and for all those of us who have suffered this pain of kidnapping,” Santos said.
The Colombian defense ministry also released a statement declaring it was “shocked and grieved by the request for reparations, especially because of the effort and commitment by law enforcement in the planning and execution of Operation Checkmate… which doctor Ingrid Betancourt herself qualified as ‘perfect.'”
The defense ministry reiterated Santos’ statement that Betancourt had been “insistently recommended” by the army and other authorities not to enter the zone and said it “has conviction that no objective element exists that allows state responsibility to be deduced.”
The Colombian public’s response
Friday saw a wave of public outcry in Colombian against Betancourt’s quest for financial reparation, particularly in the world of social networking.
Several Facebook groups such as Ingrid Betancourt Traidora (Ingrid Betancourt the Traitor) and Contra Ingrid Betancourt (Against Ingrid Betancourt) sprung up, expressing outrage and amazement at the French-Colombian’s decision.
Social networking site Twitter was also abuzz with indignation over the Betancourt issue. The site was rampant with comments such as Betancourt “finally learnt something from the FARC: to be a cynic and a traitor,” suggestions that Colombia should sue her, and postulations on which island paradise she will vacation with the Colombian government’s money.
Betancourt was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23, 2002, when she traveled to the newly-remilitarized El Caguan area to campaign for the presidency. Colombia’s armed forces rescued her and thirteen others in the highly celebrated liberation mission “Operation Checkmate” on July 2, 2008.
While Betancourt’s request for $6.6 million is not an official lawsuit, if she is unable to reach an agreement with the defense ministry, the French-Colombian could potentially bring a lawsuit to court.
Three American contractors who were Betancourt’s fellow FARC hostages, and who were also rescued in Operation Checkmate, painted a grim picture of the French-Colombian in their book “Out of Captivity,” claiming she was arrogant, she stole food, and put their lives in danger by telling the rebel guards that the authors were CIA agents.
Betancourt left Colombia shortly after she was freed in the daring rescue operation and has only returned briefly to her native land. She now splits her time between Paris and New York.