As part of its special coverage of Ingrid Betancourt, France 24 examines the life and plight of the French-Colombian politician, and one-time presidential candidate for Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt. She has been held captive by Marxist rebels (the FARC) since 2002, and is often referred to in the French press as the Colombian Joan of Arc.
Ingrid Betancourt was born in Colombia on Christmas Day, 1961, into a privileged family. Her mother was a former Miss Colombia, a fact that Betancourt would later leverage when running for office in her home country. Her father was a diplomat, in which capacity he moved with his family to Paris, where Ingrid grew up. She attended the prestigious Institut d'études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), one of the Grandes Ecoles that has produced many of France's political elite.
She married (and later divorced) a French diplomat, allowing her to receive French citizenship. She returned to her native Colombia in 1989, motivated by her distress over the assassination of Luis Carlos Galan, a presidential candidate running on an anti-drug trafficking platform. She became actively involved in politics. She was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 1994, riding on an anti-corruption ticket. She then formed her own party, the Green Oxygen Party, and became a senator in 1998. She wrote a frank memoir criticising then-Colombian president Ernesto Samper. The book initially was published in France as Le rage au coeur (An Angry Heart); a Colombian version followed.
In early 2002, against conventional wisdom, she attempted to enter the demilitarized zone bordering on FARC territory, to meet with the latter group regarding her upcoming presidential campaign. She traveled on ground, without an escort. On February 23, 2002, during this attempt, she was kidnapped by the FARC; they have been her captors ever since. Very little concrete information has emerged about Betancourtsince then. The FARC released a video of her in August 2003, in which the politician expressed love for her children.
Le Monde asked in its May 26, 2007 issue how such a horrid fate could befall "a young slender lady, raised between the elegant salons of Bogota, the 16th arrondissement of Paris, and the classrooms of Saint-Guillaume street (the location of Sciences Po)." Even American television has taken notice; the cable network Cinemax aired a biopic, The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt, in 2004. This came on the heels of speculation at the time that Ingrid might be released, which never materialized.
Betancourt has always hit headlines whenever rumours surface that the FARC might release its prisoners.