Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio (born December 25 1961) is a Colombian senator and anti-corruption activist. She was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23, 2002 while campaigning for presidency. Betancourt is still being held.
Betancourt was born in Bogotá. Her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, was a former Miss Colombia, later serving in the Congress representing the poor southern neighborhoods of Bogotá. Her father, Gabriel Betancourt, was a Colombian diplomat, posted to the embassy in Paris, where Ingrid grew up. Their house was frequently visited by leading Colombian personalities and intellectuals. She attended the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (known as Sciences Po), an elite place of higher learning in France. After graduating, she married a fellow student and they had two children, Melanie and Lorenzo.
Her husband was in the French diplomatic service, and they lived in various places, including New Zealand. After the murder of Luis Carlos Galán, a candidate for the Colombian presidency running on an anti-drug trafficing platform, Ingrid decided to return to Colombia (date?) and do something to help the country. From 1990 onwards, she worked at the Finance Ministry, later resigning to enter politics. Her first campaign distributed condoms ("preservativos"), with the motto that she would be like a condom against corruption. The south of Bogota supported her, thanks partially to the name recognition from her mother, who helped her campaign.
She was elected to the Senate in 1994. The total number of votes she received was the largest number of any candidate in that year's election for Senate. During her term, she fought against the Samper administration, which was accused of corruption (Galil case) and accepting drug money for the electoral campaign.
Sometime during this period, she divorced her French husband, and later remarried, to a Colombian man. Death threats from an unknown quarter forced her to flee with her family to New Zealand, thanks to the help of her ex-husband, during her Senatorial term.
She ran for President in the election which was won by Andrés Pastrana Arango. As part of her strategy she founded a political party, Oxigeno Verde (Green Oxygen Party). Pastrana persuaded her to drop out and endorse him, and she campaigned on his behalf. She claims he later reneged on the promises he made to her when she agreed to drop out.
After the 1998 election, Ingrid wrote a book, a memoir. Initially, it could not be published immediately in Colombia, perhaps because of the polemics against former president Samper and others, so it came out first in France as La rage au coeur (Rage in the Heart). It has since appeared in Spanish, in Colombia and elsewhere, as La rabia en el corazon, and in English as Until Death Do Us Part (2002)
Meeting with FARC
As part of her campaign in 2002 (the election won by Alvaro Uribe Velez), she wanted to go to the demilitarized zone at San Vicente del Caguan to meet with the FARC. This had not been unusual — many public figures took the opportunity afforded by the DMZ, created by Pastrana to satisfy a FARC precondition for negotiations, to meet with the FARC.
When Pastrana canceled the peace talks and revoked the DMZ due to the kidnapping of a politician by the FARC and sent the army to take it back (after a 48 hour respite that had been agreed to with the rebel group), several political and government figures attempted to continue their planned visits to the zone. Ingrid Betancourt was one of them and, when denied transport aboard a government helicopter that was heading to the zone, decided to head into the DMZ by herself together with her presidential running-mate Clara Rojas. She was unlucky enough to be picked up by the FARC, who have held her ever since.
Ever since the days of the Pastrana negotiations, when a limited exchange took place, the FARC have demanded the formalization of a mechanism for prisoner exchange. The newly elected Uribe administration initially ruled out any negotiation with the group that would not include a cease-fire, and instead pushed for rescue operations, many of which have traditionally been successful when carried out by the police's GAULA anti-kidnapping group in urban settings (as opposed to the mountains and jungles where the FARC keeps most prisoners), according to official statistics.
However, relatives of Ingrid and most FARC kidnapping victims have come to strongly reject any potential rescue operations, in part due to the tragic death of the governor of Antioquia department, Guillermo Gaviria Correo, his peace advisor and several soldiers, kidnapped by the FARC during a peace march in 2003. The governor and the others were shot at close range by the FARC when the government launched an Army (not GAULA) rescue mission into the jungle which failed as soon as the guerrillas learned of its presence in the area.
In August 2004, after several false-starts and in the face of mounting pressure from relatives, former Liberal Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen especially and also Ernesto Samper Pizano (who Ingrid had criticized) and, as shown in recent Colombian polls , the growing majority popular backing in favor of a humanitarian exchange (more than 60% would consider Colombia a "better country" if the exchange took place), the Uribe government seems to have gradually flexibilized its position, announcing that it has given the FARC a formal proposal on July 23, in which it offers to free 50 to 60 jailed rebels in exchange for the political and military hostages held by the left-wing FARC group (not including economic hostages as well, as the government had earlier demanded).
The government would make the first move, releasing insurgents charged or condemned for rebellion and either allowing them to leave the country or to stay and join the state's reinsertion program, and then the FARC would release the hostages in its possession, including Ingrid Betancourt. The proposal would have been carried out with the backing and support of the French and Swiss governments, which publicly supported it once it was revealed.
The move has been signalled as potentially positive by several relatives of the victims and Colombian political figures. Some critics of the president have considered that Uribe may seek to gain political prestige from such a move, though they would agree with the project in practice.  
The FARC released a communique, dated August 20 but apparently published publicly only on August 22, in which they denied having received the proposal earlier through the mediation of Switzerland (as the government had stated) and, while making note of the fact that a proposal had been made by Uribe's administration and that it hoped that common ground could eventually be reached, criticized it because they believe that any deal should allow them to decide how many of its jailed comrades should be freed and that they should return to the rebel ranks. 
On September 5, what has been considered as a sort of FARC counter proposal was revealed in the Colombian press. The FARC-EP is proposing that the government declare a "security" or "guarantee" zone for 72 hours in order for official insurgent and state negotiators to meet face to face and directly discuss a prisioner exchange. Government military forces would not have to leave the area but to concentrate in their available garrisons, in a similar move to that agreed by the Ernesto Samper Pizano administration (1994-1998) which allowed the rebel group to free some captured police and military. In addition, the Colombian government's peace commissioner would have to make an official public pronouncement regarding this proposal.
If the zone were created, the first day would be used for travelling to the chosen location, the second to discuss the matter, and the third for the guerrillas to abandon the area. The government would be able to chose as the location for the "security zone" among one of the municipalties of Peñas Coloradas, El Rosal or La Tuna, all in the Caquetá department, where the FARC has clear political influence. It has been speculated by retired military analysts that the FARC could potentially set up mines or other traps around local military garrisons while the zone is in place.
The FARC proposal to arrange a meeting with the government was considered as positive by Yolanda Pulecio, Ingrid's mother, who called it a sign of "progress...just as the (government) commissioner can meet with (right-wing) paramilitaries, why can't he meet with the others, who are just as terrorist as they are."
- http://www.ingridbetancourt.com Official site in French and Spanish
- http://www.betancourt.info/ : comprehensive info on Ingrid Betancourt and the campaign for her liberation (in French - but the site has pages in nine languages - click on the appropriate flag at the top of the main page). Press articles about Human Rights issues in Colombia are posted daily in French, Spanish and English.
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