I don’t know how much coverage it’s gotten in the States, but because she’s a dual citizen of France, Ingrid Betancourt has been a cause célèbre here for the past six years. And today she’s free. I’ve found myself particularly moved by the personal tragedy of her story over the years, but also of the national tragedy it incarnates, and never more so than watching her ten-minute address on the tarmac following her liberation. The courage of her political struggle grew out of her love for her country, and she and her family suffered terribly for it. Yet the sentiments she expressed upon being freed were still of her love for Colombia, and her desire to see it healed from its self-inflicted wounds.
She also expressed her gratitude to the media for keeping her story in people’s hearts and minds, as well as to the Colombian Army, calling the operation that freed her, three American military contractors, and eleven other hostages “perfect.” The operation, which was based on high-level infiltration of the FARC command and in which apparently not a single shot was fired, convinced the FARC commander who was holding Betancourt hostage that he was simply transferring her to another FARC location. Betancourt herself didn’t realize she was free until the helicopter had taken off, and the men wearing Che Guevara t-shirts revealed that they were actually Colombian soldiers. She proudly mentioned that previously only Israel was known for this kind of operation, and sure enough, according to Le Monde, it was carried out with the help of retired Israeli national security operatives as consultants.
Ingrid Betancourt is an extraordinary woman and a fierce advocate for peace and justice. It’s good news for her family, for Colombia and for the world that she’s back among us.