Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio is a French-Colombian politician and anti-corruption activist. In February 2002 Betancourt was kidnapped by the leftist guerrilla organization Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while she was campaigning for the presidential elections. She was finally rescued by Colombian security forces six and a half years later, in an operation dubbed Operation Jaque, which also rescued 14 other hostages. Her kidnapping received worldwide coverage, particularly in France, because of her dual French citizenship. In 2010 she wrote a memoir about her time in captivity called "Even Silence Has an End."
Question: Were you depicted unfairly by your fellow captives in their memoir “Out of Captivity”?
Ingrid Betancourt: I think that there are reasons for having depicted what we lived the way they did and actually I think we have to just separate perhaps... there were three Americans writing the same book. Two wrote it in a way and one was very hard let’s say, very harsh. I think that, of course, we lived very difficult moments. That is for sure. But I think there are other things. I think there is this sensation of being deprived of something that you are entitled to have. What happened I think is that in the jungle we always had news about the hostages and only one name kept popping up, all the time and it was my name. And for some of my companions that was insulting because, "Why is she all the time referred to and what about us? We are entitled to have the same attention."
And it was difficult for me to explain to them that I didn’t want to have that, you know, exposure. I haven’t done anything to have it and I didn’t want it, and I couldn’t control it. But for them I think it was something that hurt them a lot. And so the reactions were always aggressive. They would turn off the radio or they would aggress me verbally saying, “Do you think you’re better than us because you’re in the radio?” Or, “Do you think you are a princess?” Or, “Do you think you…?” And those kinds of attitudes, of course, were painful and hurt me. And perhaps I didn’t react in a good way because I thought it was unfair. I thought they were mean and it hurt me, but I think I didn’t understand that for them not having their names in the news was another kind of injustice and a denying of their identity. So now I think that I understand what they went through, but at the time it was difficult for me to understand that it was hard for them to just cope with that reality.
But there we other things. I think we were with especially one of them. We had a character problem. I mean he would react in a way that I wouldn’t and my reactions didn’t satisfy him. For example, with the roll call. For them not answering by like everybody with a number was a proof of arrogance. For me it wasn’t arrogance. For me it was because I couldn’t do anything... I mean, I didn’t want to play that game.
So the way we would judge the other was from different perspectives. There were things that they would do that I wouldn’t... I didn’t appreciate and there were things I would do that they didn’t appreciate and of course we also were fed with lies. And I think they were also a victim of that manipulation. So for me what they wrote is the result of all those situations and I think I had the opportunity to just let things just smooth in my heart because I wrote my book, I mean, much later than they did. They just arrived from freedom and they were already writing the book, so had more perspective I think on things.
But I don’t want to judge them because I think we all are entitled to our truth and if they saw me like that well the only thing I can do is to apologize, you see? Because I never would want anybody to suffer because of me, but I realize that we were in a condition where I mean everything was upside down. Perhaps if we had known ourselves in a place like we are, you and me here, the relationship would be good and different.
Recorded on October 19, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller