Ingrid Betancourt: 2,000 days as hostage

15th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

BOGOTA, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) - French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who sees her 2,000th day as a hostage Thursday, is famous in France for her ordeal - but in her home country split by civil conflict she is just one of thousands held by rebels.

BOGOTA, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) - French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who sees her 2,000th day as a hostage Thursday, is famous in France for her ordeal - but in her home country split by civil conflict she is just one of thousands held by rebels.

There has been no sign of the 45-year-old since a video released in 2003,the year after she was seized near rebel territory while waging an ambitiouscampaign as a green party presidential candidate, denouncing corruption.

The video was filmed in May 2003 and released the following August by her captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). They seized her in February 2002 as she tried to access a demilitarized zone that they control.
 
Since the video, French agents sent to Colombia have failed to find any sign of her, but John Franck Pinchao, a hostage who escaped from the FARC in May, said he had seen her alive and well the previous month.

Seized along with her campaign manager Clara Rojas, Betancourt is among 45 captives - including three US contractors - whom the FARC has offered to free in exchange for 500 of its members held by Colombian authorities.

The FARC holds some 3,000 captives in total, but it is Betancourt who has become the popular face of the drama.
 
"Ingrid is one hostage among about 3,000 others," the political scientist Vicente Torrijos told AFP in Bogota. "She is part of the phenomenon, but not its protagonist, as she is seen in France."
 
The 17,000-strong Marxist militia is Colombia's largest armed rebel group, and has been fighting the government since the 1960s. The hostages' fate hangs in the balance as it quarrels with President Alvaro Uribe over a settlement for its imprisoned members.
 
"In Colombia, though we are in a democracy, it's different because there is an internal armed conflict," said Fernando Giraldo, a political analyst at Javeriana university in Cali, southeastern Colombia.
 
Last month 11 Colombian lawmakers who were also being held were killed in the crossfire during a battle between FARC factions, Colombia's intelligence chief said.

Andres Penate, the head of the DAS intelligence service, said a guerilla chief had ordered the lawmakers be killed during a skirmish.

"The government and the guerillas are in a test of strength in which the pain of the (hostages') families seems quite secondary," said Camilo Gonzalez, a former minister who now runs a peace institute, Indepaz.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to press ahead with efforts to free Betancourt, but he admitted that French negotiators sent to Colombia in July came back with no news of her.

Betancourt, who gained joint French nationality through her first husband, a French diplomat, is described by friends and family as passionately strong-willed.

Critics say she ignored warnings not to approach the FARC-held territory shortly after a break-down in relations between the rebel force and the government.
 
"From the point of view of Colombian society, Ingrid is someone who ignored the government's warning not to go into this zone, and is also a controversial political figure who drew admiration but also hatred," Torrijos said.
 
"She was sometimes a bit stubborn," her mother Yolanda Pulecio told AFP.
 
"I feel that my daughter is alive," Pulecio added, saying she was hoping for "something unexpected."
 
Gustavo Moncayo, whose son Pablo Emilio has been held hostage for nearly 10 years, on August 2 finished a 900-kilometer (560-mile) walk across the country to boost support for freeing the captives.

 "I feel a deep admiration for the French people, for their feeling and solidarity" with Betancourt, he said. "We Colombians are all guilty for we have done nothing for the hostages."

AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article