Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt alleges government failed to protect her from rebels.
|Betancourt took 18 months to write her account of life as a captive of Farc rebels in the jungles of Colombia [AFP]|
Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian presidential candidate who was held hostage by the country’s largest rebel group for six years has launched her memoir recounting her ordeal in captivity.
The 700-page book, titled “Even Silence Has an End” was released worldwide on Tuesday. Betancourt, now residing in France, took 18 months to write the tome.
She recalls the day in February 2002 when armed men stopped her car and she became a captive of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).
She then details her years in captivity, where she says that “boredom competes with distress”.
“The conditions of detention are appalling, it’s difficult to keep hope alive. We were handed the heaviest sentence a human being can be given, that of not knowing when it would end,” she writes.
The book, in which she recounts her manifold fears – “fear of being alone, fear of fear, fear of dying” – begins with an account of one of her escape attempts, after which the rebels recapture her.
She is tied by the neck, beaten and sexually abused: “I was taken by storm, I had convulsions… my body and my heart stayed frozen during the brief moment of eternity.
“But I survived,” she writes.
Some of her fellow hostages have already written unflattering accounts of sharing captivity with Betancourt, including allegations she obtained privileges because she was a member of one of Colombia’s most-established families.
During her captivity, she learns of the death of her father, also a politician and diplomat, from a month-old newspaper deliberately given to her by one of her captors.
Her memoir has already angered one of her former fellow captives, Clara Rojas, who decried as “infamy” Betancourt’s suggestion that Rojas asked their leftist rebel captives for permission to get
Battle over fortune
Betancourt also alienated many Colombians in July when they learned she had decided to seek more than $6m in damages from the state.
Betancourt later withdrew the petition for damages.
Some prominent Colombians have accused her of being reckless for heading by road into the conflict zone where she was kidnapped.
Betancourt contends the government bears responsibility because it denied her helicopter transport and stripped her of armed protection during her presidential campaign.
In July 2008, Colombian troops disguised as humanitarian workers arrived by helicopter and freed Betancourt and 14 other hostages, including three US military contractors.
“This was victory over despair… a victory just for ourselves,” she wrote.
The release of Betancourt’s memoir comes as her estranged husband filed court papers seeking half her fortune.
The lawyer for Juan Carlos Lecompte told The Associated Press news agency on Tuesday that he filed a motion a day earlier at a family court in the Colombian capital, Bogota, seeking to freeze all of Betancourt’s assets – in Colombia and abroad.
Heli Abel Torrado said the assets include an apartment in Paris, a home in the US state of Wyoming and royalties from her memoir.
Lecompte said Betancourt filed for divorce several months after the Colombian government rescued her in July 2008.