Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt, Rescued and Freed by Colombian Military

Local Colombian newspapers and international news agencies have published reports that Ingrid Betancourt, 46, a high-profile FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) hostage was freed and rescued by Colombian security forces after six years of captivity (2,321 days). this Wednesday, July 2, 2008 after a successful and brilliant military operation without firing even a single gunshot. This relieves the pressure on Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate with the FARC allowing him to continue with his US-backed military offensive against this insurgent group.

This is welcome news around the globe in the international political community, the European Union and particularly by the French government whose release becomes a foreign policy priority by President Nicolas Sarkozy. She was freed together with other 15 hostages including those three American Defense Department contract workers and 11 Colombian soldiers and policemen. She has been described to be in poor health and was believed then while in captivity that she is suffering from serious liver problem – hepatitis B.

Ms. Betancourt was born in Bogota, Columbia on the 25th of December, 1961 having a dual citizenship – both Colombian and French, whose father served as a Diplomat (died just a month after she’s kidnapped) and whose mother was a former Miss Colombia and congresswoman. She grew up and educated both in Paris and Bogota. She is as well an honorary citizen of Paris as announce by its mayor, Bertrand Delanoë in October 2007.

Motivated by presidential (May, 1989 election) front-runner Luis Carlos Galán’s assassination with whom her mother was supporting and was just behind him when he was shot, she returns to Colombia in 1989, worked for the Ministry of France, and was later elected as a congresswoman in 1994. In 1998 she was elected as Senator garnering the largest total number of votes in that senate election year. While in the term of her office she received a lot of death threats, thereby prompting her to send her two children, Melanie (born 1985) and Lorenzo (born 1989) to New Zealand to live with her first husband, Fabrice Delloye, a French Diplomat whom she married in 1983 and divorced in the 1990s.

She later married Colombian advertising executive, Juan Carlos Lecompte and launched her presidential bid on May 20, 2001. She has then begun her presidential campaign by bus trip around the country to attend local community meetings. It was in February 23, 2002 when she was kidnapped as she entered the demilitarized zone via a road trip in the town of San Vicente Del Caguán to meet with the left wing FARC – a rebel group fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for the past 44 years.

Along with her being kidnapped was her campaign manager, Clara Leticia Rojas González, a senator and later named as her vice-presidential candidate. Rojas was released last January 10, 2008 together with former congresswoman Consuelo González de Perdomo through a so-called intercession by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

It could be well recalled that Rojas while in captivity, has given birth to a son Emmanuel, fathered by a FARC rebel. Her son was parted from her for the past two years due to illness as a baby whom Rojas consented on the condition that he will be returned to her after bringing him to a doctor. Instead, Emmanuel was taken care of a peasant who didn’t know whom the baby belong to. The baby was identified later through a mitochondrial DNA test, which later fitted by a child’s description who was in the custody of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF) on December 31, 2007 and later confirmed by FARC as well.

This has led international criticism and condemnation to the cruelty and brutality of the once-mighty rebel group. It was estimated to have 18,000 strong combatant members who are present in 20% of Colombia’s territory. It was reported in March 2, 2008, Raul Reyes, FARC's second-in-command was killed in an air-raid and gun-battle with Colombian soldiers. Last March 26 of this year, its legendary leader, Manuel Marulanda has died of heart attack. These deaths as observers noted, are believed to be a devastating blow to its seven-man ruling body.

Ms. Betancourt was met and greeted by her husband and her mother, Yolanda Pulecio as she disembarked from the aircraft at a military airbase in Bogota. Her son, Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, told reporters in Paris that her mother’s release was "the most beautiful news of my life" and that it had filled him with "an indescribable joy". Since her kidnapping, her two children who are expected to be reunited with her, had been working hard unceasingly to bring their mother’s case in the spotlight.

A video footage of her, filmed by her captors in 2007

Ingrid Betancourt, before and during the kidnapping

Video Updates Below
The rescue and jubilation in mid-air

Betancourt & family greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy & First Lady Carla Bruni

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