Monday, July 12, 2010

Colombia: Ex-hostage defends legal moves

The announcement on Friday that former Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt filed a claim against the state has led to shock and anger among most Colombians. Her claim for about $6.8 million in damages may have some legal basis according to the La Silla Vacia website, while other former hostages are considering similar actions. Yet to the Colombian public her gratitude in being rescued by the army as well as her harsh criticism of her ex- guerilla captors has been undermined by the recent legal actions.

One of the harshest critiques against Betancourt over the weekend (outside of the president’s residence) came from Maria Jimena Duzan, a left-leaning columnist who has been highly critical of President Alvaro Uribe. “(If Betancourt wins her case) I promise that I will do up to the impossible to avoid that my taxes fall into her hands,” wrote Duzan in her piece published on Saturday.

In light of the backlash against her, Betancourt appeared in a televised interview Sunday night and said that her claim was not an indictment against the Colombian military. She insisted that the “idea was never to attack those who freed” her two years ago but rather to "open the way so that other people who have been kidnapped can get compensation". In addition:
Asked why she was seeking so much money, the former hostage admitted the sum was "astronomical" and "absurd", but she stressed it was "symbolic".

She had acted because the statute of limitations was running out, she said.

Ms Betancourt said she also wanted to tell her side of the story as she had been accused of irresponsibility by undertaking the journey that ultimately led to her kidnap.

The authorities had in fact taken away her bodyguards, she said.
In response, Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio said that her decision to take her claim into a type of arbitration known as conciliation was “intelligent”.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Colombia Reports, La Silla Vacia, AFP,, Al Jazeera English, BBC News, El Tiempo

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