Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio was born on 25 December 1961 in Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia. While studying political science in France, she married and had two children, Melanie and Lorenzo. In Paris she worked for the Institute for Political Sciences and was responsible for international relations and international trade.
In 1990, following the violent death of a senator in Colombia, she decided to give up the quiet life and return to her homeland to fight for a better future for its people.
As an adviser to various ministers, Betancourt soon revealed herself to be a woman driven by a strong sense of justice and fair play.
In 1994 she stood for election to parliament. Her campaign focused on the fight against corruption, drug cartels, paramilitary groups and Marxist guerrillas. Once elected to parliament she continued her fight, even though countless threats were made against her and her family. Right from the start of her political career she was a fighter. She hammered away at the importance of regional development and stood up for the poorest of her fellow Colombians.
In 1998, by the biggest vote ever recorded, she was elected a senator for the Liberal Party. But she soon founded her own party, ‘Oxigeno Verde’ (‘Green Oxygen’), an open democratic party that included people with communist ideas, trade unionists, members of human rights groups, nature conservationists, etc. – people from all levels of Colombian society.
In 2000 she published the book, ‘Until Death Do Us Part: My Struggle to Reclaim Colombia’, about her fight. In 2002 this was followed by her political autobiography, ‘Rage in the Heart’ (La rage au coeur), in which she reports on the abuses that are endemic in virtually all Colombian administrative bodies.
In 2002 she put herself forward as a presidential candidate. In her campaign she again concentrated on the elimination of corruption in Colombia.
In January 2002 Betancourt had a meeting with several prominent leaders of the guerrilla army, while other presidential candidates were most definitely not welcome.
Ingrid Betancourt had known for years that she was on a hit list for murder or kidnapping. She was protected 24 hours a day by 30 bodyguards, and for reasons of safety her two children had not lived with their mother in Colombia for quite some time.
On 23 February 2002 her campaign took her to the town of San Vincente, which was in a FARC-controlled area. The incumbent president warned her of the dangers, but gave her no escort. Her bodyguards were not with her either. During the trip, she and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, together with some journalists and advisers, were taken prisoner by the rebels. Nothing was heard from her for a long time.
11 February 2003 was a sombre day for Betancourt and her family. Negotiations on an exchange of hostages for 300 imprisoned FARC members broke down.
The Colombian government then said that it would no longer negotiate with the rebels – something that Betancourt was absolutely against too. Escalating conflict and discord made the family pessimistic about Betancourt’s release. Violence spread from the countryside to the cities. Many dozens of innocent people have died in Bogotá and Neiva.
By kidnapping Ingrid Betancourt, the FARC rebels not only robbed Colombia of a presidential candidate, but of a symbol as well. She has since been made an honorary citizen of almost 500 towns and cities all over the world and is the object of some 220 active support committees.
In 2008 Ingrid Betancourt was liberated. She is now a free woman and very active to fight for the rights of the innocent people who are still kidnapped in Colombia.
Trouw newspaper, 22.02.2003
De Telegraaf newspaper, 24.02.2003