Ingrid Betancourt bid for President of Colombia

BOGOTá, Colombia – Ingrid Betancourt, a former congresswoman and one-time guerrilla hostage who is seen as a symbol of both the brutality of Colombia’s long war and the country’s reconciliation efforts, will run for office. president, she said on Tuesday.

Ms. Betancourt enters an open race at a time when Colombia is at an important political and social crossroads.

When she was abducted 20 years ago, Mrs. Betancourt was campaigning for the same office. Now, she said, the country is facing the same “corrupt system” and “political machine” she fought back then.

“I’m here today to finish what I started,” she said, standing on stage at a hotel in downtown Bogotá, the country’s capital, accompanied by allies. .

Ms. Betancourt, who was arrested in 2002 and detained by the country’s largest guerrilla force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, for more than six years, announced her participation in the May elections with the country. . face great challenges.

After more than 50 years of war, the government and rebel group, known as the FARC, signed a peace deal in 2016. But since then, a host of other armed groups have flooded the vacuum and keep on fighting.

Violence has increased in rural areas – and critics have blamed the government for not enough investment to address the inequality and poverty that fueled the war, as committed in the peace agreement.

Many in Colombia are fed up with the political status quo, a sentiment that erupted in the public last May, when Thousands of people took to the streets for more than a month to protest the hardship only made the pandemic worse.

After her years in captivity – when she was sometimes imprisoned in chains – Ms. Betancourt was both a supporter of the peace process and a critic of the FARC, emerging as a symbol of national effort to acknowledge the cost of the war, but also to overcome it.

Sergio Guzmán, an analyst in Bogotá, calls Ms Betancourt the country’s “conciliation candidate”.

In an interview with The Times last year, Ms. Betancourt called the peace deal “a window – a generational opportunity – to leave behind the frenzied violence we’ve lived through all of our lives.” “.

The question, Mr. Guzmán said, is whether that’s what the Colombians want.

“All of our elections are about fear, hope and hate,” he continued. “No election is truly fought on the basis of compassion and reconciliation.”

There is widespread discontent with the current president, Iván Duque, who is a product of the country’s right-wing political establishment, while a left-wing populist, Gustavo Petro, is leading in the polls. in between a wave of extreme left, anti-authoritarian sweeping Latin America.

“Can Ingrid be an appeasement to the prevailing negative emotions we are feeling right now?” Mr. Guzman said. “I don’t know. That’s one of the things her candidacy will tell us.”

But to make any headway among voters, he said, “she needs to sell the idea that reconciliation is better than populism.”

Although Betancourt is widely known around the country, a win in May is far from certain.

Today have more than 20 candidates for the presidency, with most of the most popular candidates grouped into three coalitions: a left-wing coalition, led by Mr. Petro; a coalition at the center, which Ms. Betancourt is participating in; and a coalition on the right, whose members are seen as torchbearers for the current government.

To be able to stand in the May election, Ms Betancourt must first win the March primaries in which she will compete with others at the center, including Alejandro Gaviria, the former Minister of Health and recently the chancellor of a prestigious university.

Mr. Guzmán pointed out that Ms. Betancourt entered the race late in the election calendar and called her bid “a Hail Mary.”

Colombia has never had a female president, and Ms. Betancourt is one of four female candidates in the top three coalitions.

The most prominent female candidate so far is Francia Márquez, a young Afro-Colombian politician and environmental activist who is also a victim of war.

Ms. Márquez, who joined the leftist coalition, has stood out not only for her identity – Colombian politics is dominated by wealthy white men – but for her outspokenness in favor of female politics. authority and ready to criticize Mr. Petro.

Ms. Betancourt is the daughter of a Colombian politician and a Colombian diplomat, later becoming a French citizen through her first husband.

In 2002, after serving in the National Assembly, Ms. Betancourt launched her presidential campaign as a member of Partido Verde Oxígeno, a young political movement with philosophies against corruption, environment and peace. jar. On February 23, 2002, she was going to a campaign event in the city of San Vicente del Caguán, when she was stopped at a barricade by the FARC and taken hostage.

During her years in the forest, she was brutally treated and tried to escape several times, experiences she recounts in her book.Even silence has an end. ”

She was eventually rescued by the Colombian government and over the years she has become the country’s most famous victim. But she has also been the subject of criticism – from those who say she has brought attention to poorer, lesser known victims, and from others who have criticized her for seeking compensation. usually from the Colombian government after she was captured and rescued.

Ms. Betancourt has lived in France for many years and only returned to Colombia a few months ago. In her campaign speech, she directly addressed criticism that the move was designed for personal political gain.

“I have returned to the political best interest,” she said, “that we can all have a true democracy.”

Her campaign announcement said little about policy proposals beyond her repeated vows to fight corruption – and address the impact of violence on the country.

“My story is the story of all Colombians,” she said.

In a country of more than 50 million people, nine million people are registered with the government as victims of the conflict.

“While FARC enslaved me and my friends, drug cartels, violent groups and corrupt politicians enslaved each and every one of you,” she continued.

“We will leave behind this culture of mafia, violence and lies, and we will relearn to be free citizens.”

Sofia Villamil contribution report. Ingrid Betancourt bid for President of Colombia

Fry Electronics Team

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