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Ingrid Betancourt

Born in 1961, Ingrid Betancourt grew up between Bogota and Paris. Her father, Gabriel Betancourt, had been National Education minister and the Columbian ambassador to France. Her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, a former beauty queen, founded L’Albergue, an association that takes in children from the streets of Bogota, before she also became involved in politics.

Throughout her childhood, Ingrid listened to the friends and guests of her parents debate the future of Colombia. Their names were Botero, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Pablo Neruda; they inspired this child who would hide to listen to them until late in the night, with love for her country…

After having taken her diploma at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, Ingrid Betancourt married a Frenchman, by whom she had two children, Mélanie and Lorenzo. But in spite of the joys of motherhood, in spite her comfortable life as the wife of a diplomat, she did not cease to think of her country and of those who committed themselves each day there to improve the lot of her people.

In 1990, Ingrid realized that she could no longer play the role of distant spectator to the setbacks of Colombia, to be upset with the pervasive misery and violence without doing anything. Knowing full well that her return would sound the death knell of her marriage, she returned to Bogota, her home, with her two children. During the first two years, she patiently renewed the bonds with her country. Working at the Finance Ministry she discovered the thoughtlessness, indeed incompetence, with which Colombia is governed, the paralysis of the system caused by the exclusive reign of nepotism and corruption. She realized that she could change nothing as long as she was an employee of the state…

Consequently she took the plunge. At age 32 she resigned her position and became involved in politics. Alone, unknown, with neither political nor financial support, she ran for office in the legislative elections. Her only asset: she believed, she knew that the people would vote for her because they also wanted a country rid of corruption and the drug mafias. And she was right: her courage, her frankness, her way of speaking with all, even in the most miserable streets of Bogota, won her the regard of the voters – and the mockery of those in positions of responsibility. But she was elected deputy (member of Parliament). Now it is 1994. From this point on she must be reckoned with.

Since then, Ingrid Betancourt has been subjected to everything but has not given in: twice she was taken to court on trumped up charges, twice she proved the machination and the frame up; she has publicly denounced members of Parliament who were voted in by paid supporters of the Cali cartel; she went on a hunger strike in Parliament when the commission charged with investigating the President of the Republic was revealed to be made up of many of his old friends; her children have been threatened with death, she has sent them abroad, she has been shot at…

But in 1998, she was elected senator by a phenomenal voter margin. The Colombians have confidence in her.


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