Colombia’s Inspector General’s office announced Monday that a public mediation meeting between the Colombian state and Ingrid Betancourt, who seeks more than $6 million in damages from the government for her six years in FARC captivity, is set for August 5.
The conciliation meeting, scheduled for 9AM local time, will be open to the public. Betancourt will be required to attend, along with her mother and children, who are also seeking damages for the emotional distress that they suffered during their relative’s time in captivity.
The Colombian state will be represented by an official from the nation’s Defense Ministry.
The inspector general said that if Betancourt does not plan to sue the state, as she claimed Sunday, she needs to formally notify the government that this is case.
“Last Friday there was no written request to withdraw the request for conciliation and if that is her intention, she needs to do it today,” the inspector general said.
The official added that conciliation could cost the state between COP1 billion and COP2 billion (around $500,000 to $1 million).
The inspector general’s announcement follows Betancourt’s statement Sunday that “There is no claim, there is not going to be a claim, and I have not had any intention of suing.”
Betancourt has petitioned a “request for conciliation,” which means she has taken the initial move to discuss compensation. By law, suing would be the next step if no agreement on damages were reached with the Colombian government.
The Colombian government believes that Betancourt had no recourse to claim damages and argues that the former FARC hostages was explicitly warned not to enter the demilitarized zone where she was kidnapped on February 23, 2002. Military officials said that she signed a document accepting personal responsibility for her decision to enter, which Betancourt denies.
Colombia’s armed forces rescued her and thirteen others in the highly celebrated liberation mission “Operation Checkmate” on July 2, 2008, a mission which she herself described as “perfect.”
Betancourt’s claim for damages resulted in a wave of outrage and disbelief around Colombia, leading the politician to appear on Colombian radio and television to explain that the $6.5 million she demands is “astronomic and absurd,” but said that it is “symbolic” and will serve to “support the families of kidnap victims.”
According to Betancourt, her petition for damages aims to “open the way so that other people who have been kidnapped can get compensation.”
Perspective of kidnap victims and relatives
Former FARC hostages and their relatives on Monday expressed their complete disagreement with Betancourt’s petition.
Noemi Julio, the mother of FARC hostage General Guillermo Solorzano, who remains in captivity, told RCN, ” I don’t agree with what she demands, because above all what we owe to the government and the armed forces is gratitude.”
Former senator and FARC hostage Oscar Tulio Lizcano told W Radio that he believes that Betancourt was “poorly advised” on the matter.
“I consider that in this she made a mistake,” said Tulio, who escaped from FARC captivity in 2008, after spending more than eight years as a hostage.
For Emperatriz de Guevara, the mother of deceased FARC hostage Julian Ernesto Guevara, who died in captivity, Betancourt’s petition “verges on ingratitude.”