Who she is: Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio is a former Colombian politician who was running for the presidency in 2002, when Alvaro Uribe won the election. After a political career of many years, during which Betancourt was elected as senator and ran for president, she was kidnapped by FARC guerrillas and held captive for over six years. When liberated Ingrid became the symbol of all victims of kidnapping yet later fell to the lowest levels of public opinion when she attempted to sue the government that liberated her in Operation Jaque, during which not a single shot was fired.
Background: Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio was born in Bogotá in 1961, to Gabriel Betancourt, a career politician who was Minister of Education during Gustavo Rojas Pinilla's government (military regime) and later had a long diplomatic career, and Yolanda Pulecio who was first known as beauty pageant queen and later as a Chamber Representative. Betancourt's was one of the most well-known and prominent families in public and social life in Colombia.
Ingrid started school at the Bogotá French Lyceum. Later, the diplomatic career of her father took the family to live in Paris, where Betancourt spent many years. Ingrid Betancourt first attended a British private school and then studied at the Paris Political Studies Institute, where she met her first husband, Fabrice Delloyce, with whom she had two children, Melanie and Lorenzo.
Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio continued to live outside of Colombia until her return in 1989, when the country was going through one of its most socially and politically chaotic periods because of the devastation caused by the war on drugs. During the violence many important national figures were killed, particularly notably the near-certain future president, Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento.
Upon Betancourt's return to Colombia she affiliated with the Liberal Party and performed as adviser to the Ministry of the Treasury, Rudolf Hommes. Ingrid's first important political appointment was as delegate of the Liberal Party to the Chamber of Representatives; however, some time after that she decided to quit the Party due to allegations about President Ernesto Samper Pizano, who had supposedly received funds from the Cali cartel for his presidential campaign.
After this, Betancourt decided to create a new political party, the Green Oxygen Party, based on principles of ecology and a strong progressive ideology. As leader of this new Green Oxygen Party Betancourt ran for the senate and was elected with a high number of votes.
As part of her political movement, Ingrid Betancourt tried to involve herself in the peace talks with FARC guerrillas, first by supporting Andrés Pastrana as candidate for the presidency and then in a more direct manner. However, after watching the totally fruitless results of the demilitarized zone of the Pastrana government, she decided to take more direct action and resigned her position as senator to run for president in the elections that would choose Álvaro Uribe as President in 2002.
Betancourt decided to make a campaign trip to San Vicente del Caguán where a Green Oxygen Party member had been elected mayor at a time when FARC guerrilla presence in the area was still extremely heavy. San Vicente was a main town in the demilitarized zone in which Pastrana's failed peace talks had concentrated.
In order to make the trip safely Ingrid Betancourt requested support from Pastrana's government in terms of a military escort and air transport in either army or police helicopters. Betancourt's request was denied because it was determined, with perfectly valid reasons, the trip was too dangerous for the presidential candidate to make. Several warnings through various channels were sent to Betancourt with the aim of stopping her trip, especially in light of the fact that the ill-fated peace process had been recently suspended and guerrilla activity was once again dangerously high, which constituted an enormous and potential threat for Ingrid and anyone who went with her.
Despite all warnings and lack of military escort, Betancourt decided to go by car to San Vicente del Caguán. On 23 February 2002 FARC guerrillas kidnapped her together with her adviser Clara Rojas.
Betancourt's captivity lasted for over six years, brilliantly terminated thanks to Operation Jaque, a military operation carried out by Alvaro Uribe's government in which with impeccable planning and even better execution, Betancourt, three US military contractors and 11 members of the police and army were liberated.
What astonished Colombia and the whole world the most was that shortly after her liberation Ingrid Betancourt started a legal action against the government of Colombia, aspiring to a severance pay for being held captive for so long. Amidst a general protest by the Colombian public who had admired her, Ingrid Betancourt said later that she had never sued but only attempted to explore the possibility to sit with the Colombian government to expose some facts and determine whether or not there was a possibility of such monetary award.
The final conclusion of this embarrassing process, and what remains in the memory of a large number of Colombians, was that the person who had voluntarily gone into the lion's den, despite a series of warnings from the authorities trying to protect her from danger − which materialized in a kidnapping and captivity of more than six years − sued the government that had tried to warn her and later liberated her in a brilliantly executed operation.