Friday, May 27

Ingrid Betancourt announces her candidacy for the Colombian Presidency

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“Today I am here to finish what I started, with the conviction that Colombia is ready to change course.” Ingrid Betancourt announced this Tuesday, in a Bogotá hotel, that she is returning to the political arena as a candidate to be the presidential candidate of the Esperanza Center. The centrist-leaning coalition was formed by a handful of political veterans of different movements to beat Uribismo and to the radical left led by Gustavo Petro.

When they presented it last year, they received criticism because among the initial candidates, who were joined on Monday by a former minister, there was not a woman. Now Ingrid Betancourt, who will be the eighth of said formation to attend the primaries on March 13, is not only the female card, but one of the best known faces and the standard-bearer, or so she claims, of the fight against corruption that has always eaten away at the foundations of the Colombian State.

Although in Colombia he is a controversial character, who has as many followers as detractors, he arouses enormous admiration and respect beyond these borders. Y, for many, his figure is the image of reconciliation, of the victim who suffered for six and a half years the horrors of the armed conflict and decided to bet on a peace process with his torturers. But that it has been very harsh with the guerrillas in their appearances before the special court that judges them.

“They have accused me of returning to my home to get political benefits. Well, yes, I have come to claim the right to fight with my extended family for the Colombia that I love,” he said in his appearance, which was attended by some of his rivals, such as the former governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, the Esperanza Center’s favorite so far in the polls.

“I was kidnapped campaigning against the same political machines,” he affirmed, to add that they needed the presence of a woman and that in the electoral panorama there are only “bad options, extreme right, extreme left”, and hers is “the option of the center, the option of the heart”, with which they yearn to “build a new world. We are going to transform Colombia from our core, with our faith in God. We are going to rekindle free citizens to love.”

Kidnapped in February 2002 by the FARC in the south of the country, when she was campaigning for the presidency, she was released in 2008 thanks to the Army’s audacious Operation Jaque. He settled in France, studied theology in Oxford, England, and made sporadic trips to his native country. Although she used to say that she did not contemplate participating in an electoral contest and was one of the main promoters of Centro Esperanza, she ended up changing her opinion.

“Ingrid Betancourt is an important brand in the country, With its arrival, the Esperanza coalition reactivates a media agenda from which it had disappeared. And with how unclear the panorama of the other candidates is, she will be a competitor to take into account,” Carlos Surez, director of the firm Power and Strategy, told this newspaper.

“She is a great political leader, a victim of the FARC’s atrocities and with the moral authority to give an opinion on the conflict that continues to torment the country. And is going to take away votes from candidates like Sergio Fajardo and Alejandro Gaviria in the coming weeks,” political analyst Yesid Lancheros tells EL MUNDO. “He doesn’t have much of a chance, according to the polls. And if he loses, I don’t think I’m betting on him being anyone’s vice presidential ticket.”

Betancourt began his political career very young, in 1994, with a campaign in Congress distributing condoms at traffic lights in Bogotá to shield citizens from corruption. She won a seat and in the following legislature, already as a senator, she formed her own party -Oxgeno Verde-, and in 2001 she left the legislative chair to try to reach the presidency. Although at that time she did not score more than 1% in the polls, the kidnapping cut short her career and meant martyrdom for her and her family.

His son Lorenzo, then a teenager, suffered terribly from his prolonged absence. And now, twelve years after his mother’s freedom, he has managed to get a United States court to condemn the FARC to compensate him with 36 million dollars.

Because he was born in California and is a US citizen, he was able to sue seventeen guerrilla commanders in 2018, almost all of whom were imprisoned in the United States for drug trafficking, for “damages and losses arising from acts of international terrorism committed by the FARC and its members.” , read the complaint. “Her mother was taken from her during her formative years, causing her to suffer emotional anguish that she still suffers from,” her lawyers alleged, and even, they claimed, she had trouble reestablishing ties with her mother.

His lawyers also argued that “the FARC wanted to intimidate the Colombian population to influence the government’s policyfrom United States (…) and the defendants are terrorists who have caused deaths and have incited international terrorism.”

It should be remembered that John Frank Pinchao, the National Police non-commissioned officer who shared a kidnapping with Betancourt and managed to escape after eight years in captivity, is presented on the lists for Congress by the Hope Coalition itself.

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