Colombian Rebels Release Video of Kidnap Victims
Jan McGirk Latin America Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
MARXIST REBELS in Colombia have released video footage of their most famous hostage, the presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was abducted by gunmen at a roadblock five months ago.
Apparently recorded in mid-May at a jungle hideout, the 22- minute tape is the first proof that Ms Betancourt, 40, and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, were not immediately killed, but their condition two months on is not known.
In the tape, aired on Tuesday evening, the former senator appears haggard and subdued as she reads from a prepared script. She lambasts the armed forces and the outgoing president, Andres Pastrana, for putting her in danger by refusing her permission to board a helicopter and campaign inside the former safe haven controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the country's most powerful rebel army. She demands that the government investigate why the security provided to alternative candidates was so lax.
Ms Rojas, clad in faded fatigues like those worn by the candidate, looks pale and says nothing on the tape. The pair are among an estimated 3,000 kidnap victims held for ransom every year in Colombia.
Farc commanders have said they will hold Ms Betancourt and other politicians until the government agrees to swap them for jailed guerrillas, but government policy rules out such trades.
The normally feisty politician is the mother of two teenagers, and the daughter of a diplomat and beauty queen. Educated in Paris, where her father worked for the United Nations, Ms Betancourt has been hailed as a latter-day Joan of Arc for her crusades against corruption and the widespread collusion between drug traffickers and politicians. …