Sunday, May 28

Ingrid Betancourt, from Farc victim to presidential candidate

Correspondent in Bogota



In 2016, during a conversation in New York about his novel ‘The blue line’, originally written in French (La ligne bleue, 2014, still without translation into Spanish), Ingrid Betancourt He said: “We all have two internal forces: one that moves us forward and another that anchors us to the past, that does not allow us to let go. Tied to the past, without wanting to forgive.

Ingrid Betancourt (1961) has dedicated several years of her life to forgiving, letting go, leaving behind those 2,323 days she was kidnapped in the jungles of Colombia by the FARC guerrillas to advance. And surely he has been able to untie many of the knots of the past and recover his life step by step after his release in 2008.

But what he has not managed to do is break the ties with politics, as was made clear this week when he again launched his name for the presidency of Colombia.

Today Betancourt is a presidential candidate on behalf of her Green Oxygen Party, as part of the Coalition of Hope, which brings together political forces from that colombian center leaning to the left. «I am here to finish what I started in 2002; I am going to participate in the consultation on March 13, I am going to be part of this Esperanza Center Coalition as a candidate for the presidency and I am going to work every moment, from sunrise to sunset, to be its president,” she said last Tuesday, giving point end to the speculations about his role in that coalition and the one that I could play in the future as the vice-presidential formula of whoever triumphs in the internal consultation, to be defined on March 13.

In this way, Íngrid returns to her past, just 20 years after that February 23, 1992, when in the middle of the presidential campaign she was kidnapped by the then FARC guerrilla. Although Betancourt gained international relevance due to these events and for the six years of captivity in which the world saw reflected in his body and rictus the degradation to which the country’s armed conflict reached, in Colombia his political vocation was well known.

Daughter of parents linked to education, social causes, diplomacy and politics, –her father, Gabriel Betancourt, twice Minister of Education and permanent delegate of Colombia to UNESCO; her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, Representative to the Chamber for the Liberal Party and recognized for her leadership in social causes in favor of abandoned children- Íngrid and her sister Astrid lived a privileged childhood and youth. He studied Political Science at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, with an emphasis on international relations and foreign trade.

After many years in France, where she married Fabrice Delloye and their children Melanie and Lorenzo were born, Íngrid returned to Colombia in 1990 and began working with the Government of César Gaviria, in public positions in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce. Foreign Affairs, in the latter as an advisor to the then Minister Juan Manuel Santos.

The race for the presidency

In 1994 she ran as a candidate for the House of Representatives and with 15,800 votes she entered Congress, where she stood out for her accusations against corruption, especially for her criticism of President Ernesto Samper as a result of the 8,000 scandal and the leaking of drug money in financing the presidential campaign. That was his baptism of fire. His confrontation with his peers in the Chamber and the government at the time reached such a point that Betancourt went on a hunger strike in protest at the acquittal that the Commission of Accusations of the Chamber gave Samper.

From this experience came his book Larabia en el corazón (2001) where, in addition to biographical aspects, he talks about corruption in Colombia, about the need for the State to finance campaigns to prevent the recurrence of money of illicit origin and these have the power to influence government decisions. “Exactly 20 years ago I was kidnapped as a presidential candidate, campaigning against the same corrupt system,” she recalled at the launch of her candidacy.

In 1998 Betancourt founded the Oxygen Green Party (whose legal status he recovered last December) and ran for the Senate, in a campaign that had as its banner the fight against corruption. His proposal obtained the highest vote in the country, with 150,000 votes. With that support, he proposed a referendum against corruption and renewal of politics, but his attempt failed. Ingrid did not step back and offered her support to the then presidential candidate Andrés Pastrana, under the assumption that in his presidency he would promote these reforms.

In those years, Ingrid’s short political career seemed unstoppable. In her 2001 presidential campaign, after giving up her seat in the Senate arguing that it was “a rat’s nest”, Íngrid manages to present a fresher way of doing politics, but also quite media and gimmicky. “New Colombia” was the slogan that he wore everywhere and that would serve him perfectly today when he continues to debate the need to renew Colombian politics and its questionable electoral practices, as well as overcome polarization and achieve a center that allows the country the reconciliation, in clear rejection of the confrontation between Gustavo Petro, a leftist candidate, and the so-called “uribismo”, today in government.


«I believe that politics contaminates, removes purity from the actions that one wants to undertake from the heart and lowers the aspirations of serving others. I would not want to be involved in an electoral contest. I don’t want to be in a space where there is polarization and division,” Íngrid asserted in interviews after the cinematographic release of her kidnapping (Operación Jaque).

However, the moorings to electoral political activity have not been released. At different times and circumstances after her release, Íngrid told the country that electoral politics would not be her thing, but rather her ability to mediate for peace and reconciliation, of the victims of the Colombian conflict and of the end to polarization. And it is true that he has played a prominent role in the processes of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition carried out by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a court before which he told his truth, denounced the atrocities of the kidnapping and the war, but also with he equally vehemently defended the Peace Agreement.

But as she herself said, there are internal forces that carry us forward. That is why he decided to take the step forward and register his name for the May presidential elections. The truth is that nobody believes that she will get the majority of the votes in the internal consultation of the Coalition of Hope, but what Colombians are sure of is that this time Ingrid is here to stay.

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