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: How did your experience in the jungle change your politics?
Ingrid Betancourt: Well it changed a lot because I realized that I hated politics. I mean that is you know... I realized being in the jungle that what I had thought I could do, I mean changing the way politics were being done in Colombia, was not possible the way I wanted to do it—by confronting, by denouncing. I was struggling against corruption and the only thing… my only weapon was to put the truth in the medias and of course it made me win lots of enemies that didn’t want me to just denounce what was happening. And I'm not sure that was the most helpful way of doing things. I thought also that we should change laws and I don’t think today that laws can change really the reality of a country. I think today that if I want, for example—if my goal is to change Colombia, which it is because I really think Columbia has to change in many, many ways—I think it has to be a very profound, nearly spiritual maturing process in the Colombian society because I think you have to first be aware of what's happening and it’s not easy because many people don’t want to see what's happening. They want to stay in their comfort zone. Once you’re aware and you admit that you want to be aware, you want to be wanting to change, which is not evident either because some people are having benefits, have interests of not changing the situation, so you need to produce a desire for change and you have to... and only when the society gets together and asks for those changes then you can deliver. And I don’t think you can do it the other way around, so I'm just waiting to see if Colombians can change in their hearts being more solidarity, more compassionate to the others and wanting really to see deep changes in how we rule the country.
Question: In other words, Colombia needs grassroots change?
Ingrid Betancourt: Yes, exactly. Thank you. That is a very good way to put it short. I'm lingering too much, but that is the way. It’s a grassroots thing. It doesn’t come from the top. It has to come from the people.
Recorded on October 19, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller