Guest Host: Katty Kay

Ingrid Betancourt was campaigning for presidency in Colombia in 2002, when she was taken hostage by the FARC, a brutal terrorist organization. A personal account of six years of captivity in the Colombian jungle and the remarkable rescue that reunited her with her family.

Guests

  • Ingrid Betancourt Colombian politician and presidential candidate, taken hostage by the FARC in 2002 and held until her rescue in July 2008. Her new book is "Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle."

Transcript

  • 10:06:55

    MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us. I'm Katty Kay of BBC World News America, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is at a public radio conference in Denver. Former Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, survived what most people cannot even imagine. She was held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC, in the jungle for over six years. She has written about her ordeal in her new book, "Even Silence Has an End." Today, it was confirmed that one of the top FARC commanders who ordered her killed, Jorge Briceño -- also known as Mono Jojoy -- was killed. Ingrid Betancourt joins me in the studio. Ingrid, thank you so much for coming in.

  • 10:07:39

    MS. INGRID BETANCOURTThank you, Katty, for having me.

  • 10:07:41

    KAYI want to start with the news that broke just as you and I were chatting before the show, that Mono Jojoy, who is one of the commanders of FARC who ordered your kidnapping, ordered you being held in the jungle for so long, has been killed. I wanted to get your reaction.

  • 10:07:58

    BETANCOURTWell, I have goose bumps. I mean, it's a very intense feeling. You have to know that he was the one who invented this strategy of kidnapping civilians to trade them for the guerillas that are in the Colombian prisons. And he is one of the most bloodthirsty commanders of the guerillas in Colombia. He was the second in command, actually, in the FARC. And I always thought that as long as Mono Jojoy would be alive, there would be no chance for Colombia to initiate a serious peace process. So I'm not happy with the news because, of course, any death is something that you just don't like to hear about. But I have to say that's -- it opens a split of hope for Colombia, I think. I think that perhaps it could be the end of a long night and for me, of course, the end of a nightmare.

  • 10:09:18

    KAYDid you ever meet him, Mono Jojoy?

  • 10:09:20

    BETANCOURTYes, I met him twice. I met him when I was free. And I had a conversation with him, which was kind of awkward because I was in presence of all the high commanders of the FARC. And it is...

  • 10:09:36

    KAYThis was before you were kidnapped?

  • 10:09:38

    KAYBefore I was kidnapped, at that moment, the peace process with President Pastrana was beginning. And so we could go, you know, and talk with the guerillas, and that's what I did as a senator first and then as a presidential candidate afterwards. And I remember he had this very nasty comment, saying, I don't know why we're talking to politicians. And he was kind of, you know, harsh attitude against us. And then he said the only thing that we should do with them is to kidnap them. It's the only thing they will be useful for. And then once I was a captive, I met him again. And it was in a moment where I thought I was very close to being liberated. And as soon as I saw him and the way he looked at me and the -- all conversation we had, which was again very heavy in a way -- I thought this is a bad omen. I'm not going to get out of here ever.

  • 10:10:51

    KAYSo, Ingrid, what do you think his death means? And it seems from the reports that he was killed fighting, that he died in combat. What do you think that his death means, along with the death over the weekend of another senior FARC commander? What do you think it might mean for those people who are still being held hostage in the jungle in Colombia?

  • 10:11:11

    BETANCOURTIt's difficult to tell because the FARC is a very secluded and artistic organization. But there are two things that we can say. First, that it's an incredible victory for the Colombian army. And it strengthened the negotiation position of the new president, Juan Manuel Santos, who had offered to negotiate -- to begin a peace process with the FARC. He hadn't been answered yet, but I think that this might counterbalance the weight Mono Jojoy had in his organization. He was known to be the war man, the one who wanted the war no matter what, and that wanted to take power by arm and rebellion. The commander -- the high commander today of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, is known to be a more political commander that would be perhaps more easily entitled to begin a peace process.

  • 10:12:26

    BETANCOURTBut again, we don't know what can happen. I mean, I think that's -- to really have peace in Colombia, there's something that we all have to do in Colombia that we're lacking, which is to just put our hearts at peace. I think there's too much hatred in my country. And as long as this will be too -- as long as we won't be able to just, like, see the other one as a brother, and not as an enemy to kill, but somebody we have to reconciliate with, I think it's gonna be very difficult because trust is not there.

  • 10:13:14

    KAYIngrid Betancourt is with me in the studio. Her book, "Even Silence Has an End," has just come out. It describes her six years in captivity in the Colombian jungle. Later on in the program, we'll be opening the phones. The number here is 1-800-433-8850. You can e-mail us at drshow@wamu.org. Of course, send us a tweet or follow us on Facebook as well. Ingrid, you were in a situation that almost nobody in the world can really understand. I certainly can't ever begin to put myself in the shoes of what you went through during those six-and-a-half years. But you have written a book that is raw and harrowing and gives us a glimpse of what it was like for you, of what you went through and what the other hostages went through. It's an incredibly powerful book about captivity and about your observations of yourself and those around you. Many of our listeners, of course, won't have had a chance yet to read the book, and I was wondering if we could begin talking about the book by just asking you to read the very opening passage for us.

  • 10:14:16

    BETANCOURTOkay. Chapter One, Escaping the Cage, December 2002. "I had made my decision to escape. It wasn't the first time. This was my fourth attempt, but after my last one, the conditions of our captivity had become even more terrible. They had put us in a cage made of wooden boards with a thin roof. Summer was coming, and for over a month now we had not had any storms at night, and a storm was absolutely necessary. I spotted a half-rotten board in a corner of our cage. By pushing hard with my foot, I split it enough to make an opening. I did this one afternoon after lunch when the guard was dozing on his feet balanced on his rifle, but it made a dreadful noise. The guard, edgy, walked all around the cage, slowly like a pacing animal. I followed him, peering through the slits between the boards, holding my breath. He stopped twice, put his eye up to a hole, and for a split second our eyes met. He jumped back terrified. Then, to regain his composure, he planted himself at the entrance to the cage. This was his revenge. He would not take his eyes off me."

  • 10:16:12

    KAYIngrid, you did get out. You managed to get out through that hole that you kicked the board away with. And then, of course, you were recaptured, and you were punished for your attempt. You were taken hostage in 2002. You were freed in 2008. I wonder why you chose to start the book with that particular moment.

  • 10:16:32

    BETANCOURTWell, the book is not written in a chronological way. And I think it's more like an emotional thread of (word?) through that labyrinth. This was a moment that was very harsh for me to live and that I remember with horror. I thought that if I could write about that moment, then I would be able to write about anything that happened afterwards. So that's why this is the first chapter.

  • 10:17:14

    KAYWhy was it a particularly hard moment? In all your moments of captivity, what was it about that incident that was so difficult?

  • 10:17:22

    BETANCOURTBecause I think I was threatened in my soul. You see, there are different levels of aggression, but the most damaging one is the one that harms your essence as a human being, your dignity. And this was a moment where I thought I was in danger, and that meant a lot to me, the danger of losing what, I think, was good in me. So I wanted to share this moment mostly with my children and my mom. And I -- when I came back from the jungle, I couldn't just talk about this, and it's two years later. I haven't done it yet. And I think that by writing this, it was, like, the easiest way for me to just, you know, talk about this.

  • 10:18:29

    KAYIngrid Betancourt. The book is "Even Silence Has an End." We are going to take a short break. The number is 1-800-433-8850. Do call us with your questions for Ingrid or e-mail us at drshow@wamu.org. I'm Katty Kay. Do stay listening.

  • 10:20:03

    KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. I'm joined in the studio by Ingrid Betancourt, former presidential candidate and, of course, hostage in Colombia. Her book, "Even Silence Has an End," is extremely powerful and intense reading. And Ingrid has been sharing some of that with us. I want to go back in time now, Ingrid, to 2002, the day you were kidnapped. Tell us what happened.

  • 10:20:28

    BETANCOURTWell, I think it was a -- you know, it was a moment where everything got wrong. I had planned to go to San Vicente many weeks before, and a couple of days before my trip, the peace process with the FARC just ended abruptly. It was a crisis. And the president of Colombia said that he was going to take control of the zone he had given to the FARC in order to, you know, push them or to -- yeah, to incentivate the peace process with the government and FARC.

  • 10:21:10

    BETANCOURTAnd so the government had this need of telling the world that he hadn't lost part of the Colombian territory. And so when I arrived to the zone, it was highly militarized. The airport was completely under military control, the roads, everything. When I arrived, I was offered by the military that were in the airport to fly in one of the helicopters that were there because they were doing the -- there was, like, an air shuttle between Florencia and San Vicente. They offered me this, but then it lingered. And, finally, they said, we cannot make it. At that moment, the president of Colombia arrived in a plane, and he saw me. He just brushed past me. He didn't say hello. And I couldn't ask him if I could -- he would give the authorization, but it was okay. That was not the problem, I mean...

  • 10:22:10

    KAYBut you decided to go ahead anyway by yourself by car.

  • 10:22:12

    BETANCOURTYes, yes. I decided to go by car. And then I was informed by my bodyguards that they had received an order from Bogotá saying that they could not come with me. So my security, my escort, my bodyguards were just taken -- I mean, prohibited to accompany me.

  • 10:22:33

    KAYAnd at that point you didn't think, right, this is too dangerous. I'm just not going to go.

  • 10:22:37

    BETANCOURTNo. Because this road was a road that I had done many times, I knew that the military were everywhere. That's what the news were feeding us, and I could see them, actually…

  • 10:22:47

    KAYRight.

  • 10:22:47

    BETANCOURT...in the airport everywhere. And I asked the general that was in the tarmac, and I said, well, now, what I'm going to do? And he said, do what you want -- plan. Go by -- take the road. And so once I was confronted to this situation where my bodyguards had been withdraw, well, I thought, this is a manipulation. I mean, they want me to just not go, not be there in San Vicente, and I had to go because they were my people. The mayor of San Vicente was a guy from my party. And he had called me the day before, saying, Ingrid, you must come here. We're very scared. The peace process is not longer in place. And they could shoot us, you know, the paramilitaries in this ugly, muddy war. They could be -- you know, the paramilitaries that were confronting the guerilla. They could take revenge, so...

  • 10:23:47

    KAYI'm only smiling because you displayed the same stubbornness in deciding to go that you sometimes displayed in captivity, the same kind of resistance to being told what to do.

  • 10:23:56

    BETANCOURTYeah, that's true. I mean -- well, you see, after that, the government in Colombia tried to say that I was so stubborn, and I was imprudent. And I have been thinking a lot about that because they said they warned me, and they didn't.

  • 10:24:10

    KAYMmm.

  • 10:24:11

    BETANCOURTAnd you see, for me, it's important just to get the thing, you know, the truth out because I'm not saying that President Pastrana, his government, was responsible for my abduction because they withdraw the security -- none of that. I mean, nobody could just foresee that the guys were going to -- the guerillas were going to establish a checkpoint on the road. But I don't admit that they point their finger at me, saying, you are responsible for your abduction. No. The only responsible for my abduction are the FARC.

  • 10:24:42

    KAYSo they -- so you were driving along the road, and you came to a guerilla roadblock?

  • 10:24:45

    BETANCOURTThe first thing I did -- once I got a car that the government gave me, an official car to take the road -- then I encounter a military checkpoint, and they let me through. They let me -- and they let me go like everybody because the traffic was open. There was no -- so that's why, you see, when they say that they warned me and everything, I always say, why didn't you -- if it was so dangerous, and you knew it was so dangerous, why...

  • 10:25:15

    KAYWhy did they let you through that checkpoint?

  • 10:25:16

    BETANCOURTYes.

  • 10:25:17

    KAYSo you left the military checkpoint. Describe for me the moment when you were actually abducted.

  • 10:25:21

    BETANCOURTAnd when I was abducted was a moment where -- we had to cross a bridge, and, for a reason, the bridge was blocked. So we had to go underneath the bridge, go over the little creek that -- it was a huge river, but it was dry season. So at that moment, it was just a little creek that we could just cross very easily with the car. And then we had to go up, and we take the road in the other side of the river. And once I was in the other side, I saw -- which things that I couldn't see from the other side -- that there was military on the road. And the first thing I did was to check what kind of boots they were wearing because I had been told that when the -- they had leather boots, that was the Colombian military, the army, but when they had rubber boots, that was the guerilla. And they had rubber boots.

  • 10:26:23

    BETANCOURTAnd so at that moment, I just, you know, had this kind of freeze, and I said to my friend that was driving, I said, let's pull off. We have to go back immediately. And we didn't have time because the maneuver to turn the car was difficult to make. And by the time we were doing it, the guerillas came. They obliged to open the windows, and they asked, are you Ingrid Betancourt? And it was all over the place because it was a presidential campaign. And so my name was all over the car, and so I couldn't say, no. So I said, yes. And then they gave us the order to take a dirt road on the right. And to do that, we had to go through buses that had been stolen and -- that were there. And they had poured gas on the vehicles, and they were going to burn them.

  • 10:27:28

    KAYSo -- and the rebel leader who took you said that -- don't worry, we'll treat you well?

  • 10:27:35

    BETANCOURTWell, that was, like, two hours after that.

  • 10:27:38

    KAYRight.

  • 10:27:38

    BETANCOURTIt wasn't the same group. At that moment, after two hours, we -- through the dirt road, we had one of the guerillas that was severely wounded because he had stepped on a mine. I mean, all kind of, you know, very difficult things to handle. And then it came to a point where they divide us, or me. I was put -- I was, like, taken away from the group I was with. And in that moment, I felt they were going to kill me because it did happen before, that they separate people, they kill one, and they let go of others. So I thought, they're gonna kill me. And at that moment, a car came -- huge, like, you know, pickup. And the guy who was driving opened the door, and he told me to get in the car. And he took my hand, and he said, don't worry, you're gonna be safe with me. And so I knew it was a commander. And I understood that I just had been abducted.

  • 10:28:42

    KAYDid you have any idea, at that moment, what the next few years would hold for you?

  • 10:28:47

    BETANCOURTNever. I never thought it would be as long as it was. I thought it would be a matter of days. Then I thought it could be weeks, and even weeks seemed eternal. And then I thought it was going to be months, and I thought, okay, they will release me after the presidential election. They never did.

  • 10:29:12

    KAYThe book, reading it, is a mixture of very sudden changes, where you had to quickly get all your things together and move from one prison area to another, from one camp to another, and the sort of monotony of captivity and the hardship of food, bathing, the basics of life. How quickly did it become your world?

  • 10:29:36

    BETANCOURTI think it never became my world. I think it was my big problem. And I think that's why I was really, I think -- and even for my companions -- I was like a sort of troublemaker because I couldn't. I just couldn't adapt, and I didn't want to adapt. I want to just refuse to be there. And it was, for me, something that was very important because it was the way I was protecting myself. I mean, they were treating us like animals. They wanted us to just be, like, objects. I remember once they -- it was morning, 4:00 in the morning, and the guy -- the guard comes and shouts, count, count. And I was, count what? What is he talking about? And then I understood that it was a roll call. And my companions began saying one, the second, two, the third, three, and when it came to my turn, I said, Ingrid Betancourt.

  • 10:30:36

    BETANCOURTI'm sorry. If you want to know if I'm here, you just call me by my name. And it's just spontaneous. I didn't just, like, you know -- and that annoyed a lot of my companions. They thought that was kind of, you know, arrogant, that I was just trying to be smart, and I wasn't. It was, for me, something that was, I mean, crucial because these guys were talking about us like, you know, the cargo. They would say, the cargo. And I just understood that, for them, if we could be numbers in their brains, it would be so easy for them to kill us the day they would have to kill us. And I didn't want to let them go that easily. I wanted them to understand that no way. We were not going to be what they wanted us to be, you see? So it was difficult, yeah.

  • 10:31:30

    KAYThe jungle is very present in the book. It's very much a part of your captivity. And in some ways, you describe in incredibly poetic terms the beauty of the jungle sometimes. But also, it created a lot of physical hardships.

  • 10:31:44

    BETANCOURTYes. And it was the prison because I succeeded to escape many times, I mean, in the way of just getting out of the ring of security of the guards. But once I was there in the middle of the jungle -- this jungle is so huge, so huge that it was -- I mean, you only could get out by chance, I mean, like, by luck. If you encountered a group of militaries or policemen or somebody that could help you get out of there...

  • 10:32:28

    KAYAnd physically, did the jungle make life harder? The wetness, the darkness...

  • 10:32:32

    BETANCOURTIt was hell. It was hell. I mean, it's a place that it's not anymore, I think, made for us. Or we just became so civilized, we cannot go back in a way, you see. Our skin -- I remember thinking that it was -- I mean, how the skin was really the protection against a very aggressive environment. I didn't have a day in that six years-and-a-half of captivity without feeling that something was harming me. Every day, I would have a pain in my body. Every day, I would have been bitten, or I would have touched a poisonous ivy, or I would have eaten something that would make me sick or -- and I remember thinking that it was really hell in the sense that my body was always in pain every single day of that captivity.

  • 10:33:33

    KAYYou're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Katty Kay of the BBC. And if you'd like to join us, please do call 1-800-433-8850, or send an e-mail to drshow@wamu.org. My guest in the studio is Ingrid Betancourt. We're going to go to the phones now to Eric in Dublin, Texas. Eric, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:33:56

    ERICHi. I was wondering -- thank you for having me on the show to begin with. I was wondering -- you mentioned how you were forced from camp to camp. And I was wondering, with the same group of prisoners, did you see anyone come and go? And how many people did they put into a cage at one time, and how big was it?

  • 10:34:16

    KAYEric, thank you. Ingrid.

  • 10:34:18

    BETANCOURTYes. Thank you for the question, Eric. We were moved, and we changed crews, in a way, very seldom. I had spans of time that I would stay with only the same group, you know. And for the -- I would say the four last years of captivity, I was mostly with the same kind of guards and with the same prisoners. And I was the only woman, I mean, in the midst of the men prisoners. But before that, we were a year in a prison with barbed wire and, really, like a concentration camp. Like, and there we were, 10 prisoners -- four women and six men. We're 10 of us. And that was with a commander called Zumbra, and it was one of the most difficult, difficult moments of all this captivity because we were confined in a very, very tiny space.

  • 10:35:27

    BETANCOURTAnd that was incredible to think we were in this huge jungle where space was so available. And they managed to torture us, putting us in a very small space that we had to share, and we had to live upon the others. And, of course, that was difficult because it made all the -- I think that the relationship between all of us was distorted because of this war for space, for food, for everything.

  • 10:36:00

    KAYIngrid, your relationship with the other prisoners is being written about by some of the other prisoners. Three of the American prisoners who were held with you have written about you and have not always been very complimentary about you. What has been your reaction since your release to the different accounts of your time in the jungle?

  • 10:36:17

    BETANCOURTWell, first, I have to say that I have very good relationship with almost all my companions. We talk very often. I saw Tom some months ago, and it was very nice to see him again. And we were -- I mean, we share a bond that is special for us. With Marc, I talk very, very often -- I would say every day, we would, you know. And it's the same with my other fellow hostages. What I want to say is that I understand. I understand that we were victims of the FARC, and I cannot forget this. Because whenever there are things that are said that are -- that can hurt me, I just want to put that in perspective and not forget that I really think that, of course, we're really not heroes. We would have loved to behave ourselves like heroes. We didn't, but I really think we were the best we could.

  • 10:37:36

    KAYIngrid Betancourt. Her book is "Even Silence Has An End." We're going to take a short break. We'll have more of your comments and questions after this. The number is 1-800-433-8850.

  • 10:40:03

    KAYWelcome back, I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. I'm joined in the studio by Ingrid Betancourt. Her book, "Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle," has just come out. Ingrid, I have an e-mail here from Amy in Washington, D.C., who asks, "How did you help make time pass while you were in captivity? Did you imagine what your loved ones and the filmmakers who had been covering your campaign were doing to try to secure your release?"

  • 10:40:32

    BETANCOURTI think one of the high moments of all these years was when I discovered the Bible and when I finally read it from the first page to the last. And it was something that I wouldn't have done before because I thought it was a very boring text. And there I was, in this boredom, you know, endless days, and when I read the book, the Bible, it just -- I mean, it changed my life, really. I mean, I know it's very, you know, common to say this, but I discovered things that were answering questions that I had in my heart. And I discovered a voice that I fell in love with because it was a voice that -- it was intelligent, and it has humor, and it could love. You know, reading the things, I would just laugh in my -- you know? And I would say, oh, my God, it's so crazy that they could just say this, you know? And then...

  • 10:41:33

    KAYAnd you kept the Bible with you.

  • 10:41:34

    BETANCOURTYes. I have it with me all the time. Yeah...

  • 10:41:36

    KAYThe other thing you managed to have access to was a radio.

  • 10:41:39

    BETANCOURTA radio.

  • 10:41:40

    KAYAnd that gave you...

  • 10:41:40

    BETANCOURTVery important.

  • 10:41:41

    KAY...some outside contact.

  • 10:41:45

    BETANCOURTIt gave me life actually because in Colombia -- because there are so many hostages, they have radio programs devoted to broadcast messages of the families of the hostages. And my mom would send me a daily message at 5:00 a.m. every day, and I would live for that message, you know? And the days I couldn't hear her because I had no batteries in the radio or because the wave was bad and I couldn't just, you know, hear her, my day was ruined. And it was something that was very important for me, and it's still because it was the only person that I -- when I came back, I didn't have to reconstruct anything. We never lose touch. When I came back, I could talk to her like if I had been with her all those six years because I knew what she had in her mind.

  • 10:42:46

    KAYDo you think that that contact through the radio kept you going? Did you know -- going into this, if somebody had said to you, do you have the strength to endure what you're about to have to endure? Did you know you had that strength to do that? Where there ever times when you thought, the life I'm living now is so awful that I just want it to end?

  • 10:43:05

    BETANCOURTOh, yes. Yes, I had a moment where I just thought that dying was a good option. I never thought about committing suicide even though I know many of my fellow hostages sometimes just stroke the idea. But I was very ill at one point, and I had no medication. And I just was suffering a lot with my body. And I thought, this is a good time to go. This is a good moment to just, you know, accept that death is perhaps my best option. It will free me for good, and it will free my children because the biggest pain was to think that my loved ones, especially my children, had their lives just, like, in parenthesis because they could not move on because they were waiting for me. And I just suffer a lot with that, so I thought it's going to be good for everyone if I just, you know, go.

  • 10:44:07

    BETANCOURTSo, yes, I had moments like those. But I think, also, you always -- and that's the incredible thing about human being. We all have in us the resources to overcome the pain and the suffering. And we just connect the things that are important for us in our -- what -- in the essence of what we are. And it could be the memories of joy and love. It could be music, a sound that brings you to happy times. It could be something that you talk to someone, and that gives you the sensation that you're a human being, that you should just cling to that and continue, and it's like if every second you found a good reason to just continue.

  • 10:45:09

    KAYIngrid, let's go to the phones again. To William in Charlotte, S.C. William, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:45:16

    WILLIAMThank you very much. Appreciate you having me.

  • 10:45:18

    KAYYou're welcome.

  • 10:45:19

    WILLIAMI was just wondering, I was talking to the pre-screener, and I -- the question I have is with your captivity, to the length of time and the way they treated you. How could you not become an animal and want all your captors dead? I -- it's a form of slavery that the humans are inhuman to humans. It's unbelievable that you have any sense of not wanting to see them all dead. I don't understand that. That's beyond my comprehension, how you could still feel for the people over there and feel for your people over there. It's, like, how dare you treat me like this? Just amazes me.

  • 10:45:58

    KAYIngrid.

  • 10:45:59

    BETANCOURTThank you, William. Well, that's a so normal reaction. And that's something that we all feel, but then it comes to a point where you have to reflect on those feelings. And you have to ask yourself if you really want to be like them. And it comes to a point where you say, no, I don't want to have all those feelings in my heart. I want to be free, and freedom comes mostly in forgiving. You have to forgive to be above those memories that harm you.

  • 10:46:37

    BETANCOURTAnd you see, I'm going to tell you something, William. When I was in the jungle, I was chained to a tree by the neck 24 hours a day for years. And I remember, at one point, there was this huge storm. And they could have put a tent for me to just, you know, be dry, but they didn't. And I want to go to the toilet, and they didn't allow me to go to the toilet. I wanted to drink. They didn't allow me to drink. And I couldn't talk with my companions. I was like a dog, like a dog chained to a tree. And when I thought about that, I said, how horrible. I would never treat a dog like this because -- by the way, I love animals -- but then I thought I lost everything. I lost everything.

  • 10:47:24

    BETANCOURTAnd then I thought, no. I didn't lose everything. There's something that they will never, never take away from me, which is the freedom to decide what kind of person I want to be. And I decided I didn't want to be a murderer. I didn't want to be a beast. I didn't want to be a cockroach. I wanted to fly to the sky. And that has changed me in the way that's -- by just envisioning that woman that I wanted to be, I just decided I was going to begin being that strict now, not waiting for a transformation like, you know, a miracle. No. So that changed the way I looked at me, and it was very, very important because I was no more a victim. I was a survivor.

  • 10:48:22

    KAYIngrid, you have launched a suit against the Colombian government, and there has been a lot of anger in Colombia because of that. We've had -- a lot of e-mails have come in from people asking why, after the Colombian government and Colombian soldiers risked so much to rescue you, why have you launched this suit?

  • 10:48:43

    BETANCOURTYeah, that's a very important question, Katty. And I thank you for just allowing me to talk about this subject. Well, you see, in Colombia -- like everywhere in the world -- there's a law that protects victims of terrorism, and that allows you to ask for compensation, for reparation. I did this like other hostages did. And I was very surprised, and it had hurt me a lot seeing what it turned out to be. The government distorted the whole thing, and they presented this claim -- which is a legitimate claim -- and they said, she is attacking injustice, the soldiers that liberated her.

  • 10:49:29

    BETANCOURTI love the soldiers. I owe them what I am now. And I couldn't just think that they would, you know, present the thing this way. I presented this claim through a procedure that, in Colombia, says that you have to go to the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Justice and present your claim. And then they said that I was suing the soldiers that liberated me. How can they put that thing together? I mean, it's just absurd. And then they said, she's asking so many millions. She wants to make money off her abduction.

  • 10:50:15

    BETANCOURTLook, Katty, this is something I say to my children, to my mom and to everybody because they have suffered a lot. I said, there's no money that I would accept to go back to the jungle. That amount of money twice, three times, billions, I wouldn't do that because I suffered too much, and we all suffered too much. But, you see, I think that that claim was important for me in the sense that I need it to just be accepted as a victim. I was doing many years -- accused to have been such an imprudent person, to have gone and just, like, throw myself in the wolves'...

  • 10:51:01

    KAYOf somehow bringing this on yourself.

  • 10:51:03

    BETANCOURTYeah, and what I think is that probably the -- some politicians in Colombia were frightened that I could tell the truth and just speak out and say how it happened because the core of the problem is that.

  • 10:51:19

    KAYCould you imagine going back to Colombia now? Could you imagine ever living in Colombia again?

  • 10:51:24

    BETANCOURTI don't want to go back to Colombia now because I have heavy and profound wounds in my heart. I need time to heal. I love my country. I adore my country, but I need some time to just recover myself. And I think it has to be done by stages. I think that writing this book was very important for me. Now, I need to reconstruct my life. I have no life. I'm living between my son and my daughter, but I -- my home is a luggage and where they are. And I think that, now, I have to find place for me and to be a person and to be a woman again and to just live a normal life. And I'm not sure I could live a normal life in Colombia right now. So that's why I think I just have to be cautious with myself and, you know, protect myself all I can.

  • 10:52:25

    KAYI'm Katty Kay. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to call us, do join us. 1-800-433-8850 is the number. You can send us an e-mail as well to drshow@wamu.org. Let's go back to the phones now. To Carmen in Indianapolis, Ind. Carmen, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show." You're talking to Ingrid Betancourt. Carmen, can you hear us?

  • 10:52:49

    CARMENOkay. Yes, I can hear. Good morning.

  • 10:52:51

    KAYGood morning.

  • 10:52:52

    CARMENIngrid, can you hear?

  • 10:52:54

    KAYYes.

  • 10:52:54

    BETANCOURTYes, Carmen. I'm hearing.

  • 10:52:54

    CARMENAm I on there? Yes, good morning. My name is Carmen, and I am from Colombia. I am a Colombian. And I want to let you know that you are my heroine and that I want to voice another point of view for you from other Colombians. There are women (unintelligible) and love you, that admire you, that when I'm on the streets in Indianapolis and organize a group of people to let the FARC know that this inhumane treatment is not acceptable.

  • 10:53:25

    CARMENI believe that the fact that Colombians are mad at you is because you have shown us what honesty looks like, what a woman can do, how courageous have you been. And we are embarrassed because the majority of us don't do anything like that. We barely survive, but you have shown us how to fight against those things that make our country suffer so much. So, Ingrid, thank you. Please go on, and, please, know that there are thousands of other women out there that love you, that we are Colombians, that respect you because you are our example.

  • 10:54:00

    KAYCarmen, I'm not sure if Ingrid can answer right now because she's very moved by what you said, but thank you so much for joining "The Diane Rehm Show." Ingrid.

  • 10:54:07

    BETANCOURTThank you, Carmen. You don't realize what your words mean to me. Thank you so much.

  • 10:54:14

    KAYCarmen, since you got out, you described this life where you moved between your son in Paris and your daughter in New York. And, of course, you've been writing the book, spending hours writing the book. I said to you that you'd written the book very fast. You felt that it has taken you a long time to write the book, but you have an unsettled life at the moment. What do you think Ingrid Betancourt will be doing in five years' time? What would you like to think that she would be doing? Can you see yourself back in politics? Can you see yourself writing more books? What does the future hold, do you think?

  • 10:54:44

    BETANCOURTWell, you know, I learned in the jungle that you have to be very humble with the future. You know, whatever God wants is what I want. But if I could choose, I think that I discovered an incredible pleasure in writing. Even though it was so hard to write my experience, I would like to continue writing. I don't know if I will be able to. Sometimes, I think I don't know what to write after this, you know. But there's another thought that comes with this one, which is something that is in the book, and I'd like to share with the people that are listening to us because I think it's like a little diamond in the mud.

  • 10:55:32

    BETANCOURTWhen I was in captivity, I -- reading Bible, I found these incredible thoughts that God gave us, which is very simple. Once you have gone through the valley of tears, and you get to the oasis, your reward is not success or fame or money or whatever definition. It's just one word, which I think is incredible. The reward is rest. That's what I want for me, rest. That's my reward.

  • 10:56:05

    KAYRest from all of what you've been through in the last six-and-a-half year -- now, eight-and-a-half years -- but also from unsettled times now?

  • 10:56:12

    BETANCOURTRest is more than that. Rest is the serenity, is the capacity to just enjoy simple things of life, is not being harmed, is not being -- it's, like, when you are empowered to a level where you understand. It is a little -- also, you remember when Jesus says, when they slap you in one cheek, you have to put the other. And people always react, like, how horrible I come on to that. Well, the thing is that even putting the other cheek doesn't harm me any more. That's the point.

  • 10:56:48

    KAYIngrid Betancourt. The book is "Even Silence Has An End." It has been a pleasure to have you in the studio.

  • 10:56:52

    BETANCOURTThank you, Katty. Thank you.

  • 10:56:54

    KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC. You've been listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Thank you all for listening.

  • 10:56:58

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is drshow@wamu.org.

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