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ON July 2, 2008, Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate, was finally freed from her jungle prison along with fourteen other hostages in a daring rescue by Colombian armed forces. Ms. Betancourt was kidnapped on February 23, 2002, by the leftist guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while she was campaigning for the presidency. Ms. Betancourt had been a severe critic of the FARC.

After her long confinement and all of the media attention surrounding it, Ingrid Betancourt has now become an incredible symbol of the struggle for freedom in the world. The awards she has won from various countries and organizations, like the Prince of Asturias Award, express admiration for her courage in the face of adversity and emphasize the importance of defending those intangible values that are forgotten or trampled on a daily basis, primarily by the abuse of power. They are the values that give meaning to the human condition.

One of the things that has changed in our time (at least in perception) is the fact that women are more directly involved in wars and confrontations between human beings. Today, many women fill the ranks of armies and irregular armed groups, and they participate in combat just like the men. Every day there are also more women in jail because of their participation in crimes--in the various stages of the drug trade, for example. All of this makes them vulnerable to the violence and vengeance that are part of these realities.

The fact that a woman like Ingrid, or any woman, has been oppressed and humiliated by her captors for so many years is not only worthy of condemnation; it also shows how actions of this kind delegitimize any project or idea that claims to be about redeeming humanity or society. There is no middle ground in the face of the arbitrary use of power (any power) and the denial of human dignity. No end is important enough to justify the use of means that violate human rights. In other words, the means are also the ends of any human undertaking.

Ingrid Betancourt has the opportunity" now to transcend her personal drama and become an authentic voice for human freedom and for the struggle for peace. Knowing that it was the solidarity of so many people around the world that helped her to bear her captivity, she is keeping hope alive for the other hostages still being held in the jungles of Colombia and doing everything possible to contribute to their freedom after the famous "Operation Check." Betancourt is staying away from language of revenge and hate while at the same time demanding the freedom of kidnapping victims as a condition for dialogue towards a political solution of the armed conflict in Colombia. She insists that she is not interested in party affiliations and believes she can contribute more from a humanitarian perspective.

Ingrid is a symbol. She is also a person with virtues and flaws, a person who has suffered, someone who can now be applauded or have her opinions and attitudes criticized simply because she is now a tree person. And there is nothing more important than that.

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Title Annotation:!Ojo!; Ingrid Betancourt
Author:Pena Diaz, Hector
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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