Betancourt dials back compensation demand for hostage ordeal

10th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt's lawyer dialed back demands for nearly seven million dollars from the Colombian government for her years in FARC captivity after uproar over the request.

Gabriel Devis stressed in a statement that no one had yet been sued -- not the government, not the military and not any of the individuals who helped free Betancourt from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) two years ago.

The procedure was still at a stage where it could be resolved out of court in order to focus on the "protection mechanisms the Colombian state offers to its citizens," and does specify an amount, Devis said.

He noted that Betancourt is "deeply grateful" to "the Colombian government, the armed forces and all those who in one way or another risked their lives to free the hostages."

Betancourt and 14 other hostages were freed by the Colombian military during its "Operation Jaque" on July 2, 2008.

She was abducted during her presidential campaign in February 2002 and became a global symbol of the guerillas' hostages.

The Defense Ministry said Friday that the Franco-Colombian former hostage had asked the government to pay her and her relatives 13,000 pesos (6.9 million dollars), which Betancourt sought as financial and psychological damages.

She said the government had not provided her with enough security during her presidential run, but news of the compensation request fueled indignation in Colombia.

Vice President Francisco Santos said Betancourt had just won the "world prize for ungratefulness," adding that he was "sad, outraged and disappointed."

But others showed support.

Betancourt has "every right" to seek compensation from the government," said Marc Gonsalves, one of the three US hostages released with her.

"If the FARC were able to kidnap and hold us for so long, it means that other governments in Colombia had a hand in it," he told RCN radio.

"Previous governments (before that of President Alvaro Uribe) gave land to the FARC and that had much to do with our kidnapping."

© 2010 AFP

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