Former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt to bid for Colombia’s president

Ingrid Betancourt – who was kidnapped 20 years ago when she was campaigning for Colombia’s presidency and held captive by FARC rebels in the jungle for more than six years – on Tuesday announced a new bid for the country’s highest office.

The French-Colombian leader of the Oxygen Green Party told reporters in Bogota that she would compete to be the nominee to represent center parties in the race.

If she wins the nomination, she will run in the first round of the presidential election on May 29.

“I will work tirelessly from this moment … to be your president,” she said.

Betancourt, 60, was captured by the FARC guerrilla group in 2002 while campaigning for the presidency and was rescued in a military operation six and a half years later, in 2008.

She was chained during large parts of her captivity after she tried to escape.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been disarmed and disbanded during a 2016 peace pact that ended Colombia’s decades-long internal war, and has since transformed into a political minority party.

“I’m here today to finish what I started with many of you in 2002,” said Betancourt, who has mostly lived abroad since the liberation.

She added that she was convinced that “Colombia is ready to change course.”

Betancourt presented itself as a centrist alternative to the right in power and the left led by former M-19 guerrillas and Bogota’s former mayor Gustavo Petro, a favorite in opinion polls.

“For decades, we have only had bad alternatives: extreme right, extreme left,” she said.

“The moment has come to have a central alternative.”

She mentioned as her goal environmental protection and the fight against insecurity in a country with high frequencies of violence, and said that she believed in “a world with a woman’s vision”.

Betancourt returned to public life to support the peace process, confronting her captors last June after her trials in a meeting between victims and perpetrators organized by Colombia’s Truth Commission.

Colombia set up the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a tribunal to try the worst atrocities committed during the conflict.

Since 2017, it has accused former FARC commanders of kidnapping at least 21,000 people and recruiting 18,000 minors.

JEP hopes to issue its first rulings this year. It has the power to offer alternatives to imprisonment to people who admit their crimes and do damages.


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