I recently read the book of policeman John Frank Pinchao, a former
hostage of Colombia’s leftist guerrilla movement, the FARC. He fled
last year and wrote a book about the experience called My Escape towards Liberty. Quite interesting to read what the daily survival of the hostages of
the FARC in the jungle is like.
Pinchao describes how the FARC take the
little jungle town of Mitú in eastern Colombia. The
police don’t have the weapons and ammunition to confront the
guerrillas, who outnumber the police and are much better armed. It is
a terrible battle lasting several days. At last the police have to
surrender and the survivors are taken to the jungle. And then a
nightmare starts which for several already has lasted for more than
international media have almost completely dedicated their articles and
commentaries to the most famous former hostage of the FARC, Ingrid
Betancourt, who was liberated along with 14 others in the
spectacular Operation Jaque.
lady was lucky. She was born into a rich Colombian family and was able
to get French citizenship as well. Pinchao was born in a shanty
town in Bogotá, just like dozens of the soldiers and policemen who
are still suffering in the jungle.
Betancourt was taken hostage, it was in France that the
campaign for her liberation started. In Colombia, people in the
beginning didn’t care at all because she simply wasn’t
important. When she was kidnapped she was a candidate for presidency
for a very small party and was probably not going to win more than a small percentage of the vote. It was only after the media showed the
video in which she seemed very ill that the Colombians started to care. Ingrid was going to die and had to be liberated immediately.
After Operation Jaque the world received her as a heroine. She has won
several prizes, was received by the Pope, and is even
mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. I recognize her
suffering and admire her endurance, but I don’t understand in
what sense she contributed to peace. And I don’t understand why
she is more important than the others, who suffered as well and in
many cases have been in the jungle much longer. They just
didn’t have the luck to be born into a wealthy family with direct
links to the French government. That is the difference.
Lucky are those who were in the same guerrilla camp as Betancourt when the
soldiers of Operation Jaque arrived. Poor things are the others who
are still rotting in the jungle. Now their families are complaining that
the world lost interest in their fate after Betancourt’s
liberation. I hope she keeps her promise to fight for their freedom. She has the means which others don’t:
excellent international connections through which she can press the FARC to end their crazy cruelty.
Author Wies Ubags is a
Dutch freelance journalist in Bogotá and works for media in