Ingrid Is Free (reportedly)
July 2, 2008 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Ingrid Betancourt has reportedly been rescued by the Colombian Army. The former presidential candidate had been held hostage since 2002 by the FARC. Ever since, an intense campaign for her release had mobilised, among others, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (not always very wisely). Recent pictures of her weren't particularly reassuring. Ultimately, it apppears that the repeated raids of the Colombian armed forces have been more successful in securing her release. Now, let's hope the other 700 hostages follow.
posted by Skeptic (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by three blind mice at 1:56 PM on July 2, 2008

posted by iviken at 2:08 PM on July 2, 2008

Kind of interesting that the release happened while John McCain was enroute to Colombia for a visit there to promote free trade.
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on July 2, 2008

Three Americans were rescued as well, Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes.
posted by Science! at 2:29 PM on July 2, 2008


Man, some people take this internet thing FAR too seriously.
posted by Eideteker at 2:32 PM on July 2, 2008

The McCain visit seemed odd before - going to Columbia? But now, hey ... look at that. Especially since McCain's advisers have a long history with Columbia.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2008

It's Colombia.
posted by stenseng at 2:46 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Especially since McCain's advisers have a long history with Columbia.
“While the Arizona Republican is hoping to showcase his command of the world stage, his venture south of the border raises concerns from those opposed to his trade policies. Already, his position as an independent arbitrator on Colombia - a country often criticized for its labor and human rights practices - is undermined by a bevy of advisers who have earned large amounts either lobbying for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, or representing corporations that do business with that country.

On some occasions, these companies have been linked to the killings of union workers and other civilians, sometimes in collusion with Colombia's government or allied paramilitary groups.

McCain's chief political adviser, Charlie Black, represented the oil-giant Occidental Petroleum from 2001 through 2007, in the process earning $1.6 million in fees for his firm, according to lobbying records. Among the issues on which he lobbied included the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (though also general energy topics concerning Middle East countries). Occidental gained a certain amount of political infamy when its security company was accused of bombing a Colombian village and killing 17 civilians in 1998. The company, which works with the country's military forces to protect an oil pipeline, denied involvement in the attack. But in 2007, Occidental again found itself in the midst of a human-rights mess, this time accused in congressional testimony of being ‘complicit’ - with several other major corporations - in the murder of three labor leaders.

Black isn't the only McCain confidante with connections to companies pushing for free trade with Colombia. Kirk Blalock, a bundler who has raised at least $250,000 for the Senator, lobbied on behalf of American Forest & Paper Association, Ford Motor company, General Pharmaceutical Association, and Miller Brewing, all of which have championed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Peter Madigan, another top fundraiser for the presumptive GOP nominee, was described as a lobbyist who ‘works for the government of Colombia’ to ‘promote a U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement’ by ABC News. A lobbyist at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, Madigan's clients include Philip Morris, Arthur Andersen, Charles Schwab, Goldman Sachs, Shell Oil and Verizon. His firm, ABC wrote, has ‘distributed papers defending Colombian President Alvaro Uribe against allegations of ties to paramilitary groups, and promoting the controversial anti-drug program 'Plan Colombia' as achieving 'strengthening human rights.'‘

Meanwhile, Susan Nelson, McCain's finance director, and Tom Loeffler, the recently resigned national finance chairman, both lobbied in the past for the Colombia FTA on behalf of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. In the process they earned tens of thousands of dollars for their firm, The Loeffler Group.

‘It seems that McCain's entire brain trust is pushing for these trade deals,’ said Bill Holland, deputy director of Global Trade Watch. ‘And after the primaries, when we have seen that Americans are overwhelming rejecting the current model, to have all these advisers pushing it is a bad sign.’”*

posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm really curious to see to what degree she has Stockholm syndrome. There hasn't been too much of an update about Clara Rojas, but reports at the time of her release, and the existence of her son, suggested that she was very friendly with her captors.
posted by roofus at 2:48 PM on July 2, 2008

Sorry... Colombia
posted by R. Mutt at 2:49 PM on July 2, 2008

Who says there's never good news in the media. This is superb - and with no-one else killed either. Marvellous - well done Columbia!
posted by prentiz at 2:56 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Finally! Bravo!
posted by homunculus at 3:07 PM on July 2, 2008

Public service announcement directed at our dear friends from the US: not everything in the whole damn world revolves around your increasingly tedious presidential campaign.
posted by Skeptic at 3:26 PM on July 2, 2008

Public service announcement directed at our dear friends from the US: not everything in the whole damn world revolves around your increasingly tedious presidential campaign.

Whoa, hey, what's that got to do with us? Fox News is from Mars!
posted by katillathehun at 3:33 PM on July 2, 2008

This is such good news. I really hope that her reported liver ailment can be treated once she is able to get medical attention. (Untreated liver disease can turn into liver cancer.) Good news for the American families as well.

The US has already denied involvement, other than being briefed in advance, a courtesy that would be expected for any country with hostages. But of course the US and Colombian militaries have long been close.

The method of rescue appears to be a brilliant deception -- supposedly not even the hostages realized while being placed on helicopters that they were being rescued rather than just moved to another location. FARC has been in declining fortunes of late and the claim that their highest leadership councils have been infiltrated will be a blow to morale.

With luck, the brutal, bloody and seemingly endless civil war will end sooner now.
posted by dhartung at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2008

I don't know anything about the hostages, but I'm happy they're free. To the responsible parties: well done. Kidnappers are amongst the world's scummiest scum.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:08 PM on July 2, 2008

Btw the front page of El Pais has plenty of I.B. articles.

Main one.
posted by ersatz at 5:18 PM on July 2, 2008

amazing news.
posted by killy willy at 5:55 PM on July 2, 2008

From the NY Times story:
It had appeared to be just another change of location, she said, and she was handcuffed and “humiliated” before being put on board the helicopters.

But after takeoff, she said, the crew told their passengers they were free.
Imagine that moment, after 6 years in captivity and slowly dying without medical care.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:39 PM on July 2, 2008

I can't believe Uribe would be so lame as to time this with McCain's visit .
Grock I hate that man.
posted by liza at 6:50 PM on July 2, 2008

I think that it is a pity that McCain is receiving so much attention in relation to this. That would only be here in the U.S., of course.

I doubt that half the people who have jumped on the wagon even knew Betancourt's name before today.

Grudgingly, I give McCain credit - cause without his visit, most of America wouldn't even take notice.
posted by pwedza at 10:08 PM on July 2, 2008

Grudgingly, I give McCain credit - cause without his visit, most of America wouldn't even take notice.

I suspect that "most Americans" (i.e. greater than 50%) aren't even aware of his visits to Colombia and Mexico, let alone the freed hostage situation.
posted by ericb at 10:32 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

This WSJ article outlines the plan for "Operation Checkmate". After breaking FARC codes, the military used the FARC's own comm network to social engineer a friendly raid. Apparently, not one shot was fired. I look forward to learning more about the code breakers. I had to send up a skyrocket early in celebration of their independence!
posted by roboto at 1:03 AM on July 3, 2008

From her comments on the radio she seems to take a very christian attitude. She felt pity for the FARC man tied up on the floor, even though he hadn't treated her well. And she said the rescue was brought about by God. That actually seems borderline ungrateful to the guys who risked their lives infiltrating FARC and flying the helicopter.
posted by Phanx at 3:31 AM on July 3, 2008

liza - I can't believe Uribe would be so lame as to time this with McCain's visit .

Even if it were politically expedient to time this operation so, please explain why this is a bad thing? Doesn't Uribe have certain incentives for his country to do so?

McCain has taken an avowed stand for free trade with Columbia (we already allow tariff free Columbian exports to the US) something that has actually allowed for the development of industries and jobs, shift away from just coca production. It's not alot for us but being able to develop export industries to the US is something substantial for Columbia, losing that would be a substantial blow to developing a non-drug based economy AND the fight against paramilitaries who are completely dependent on the drug economy.

Obama has given way to US labor unions on the same issue, and has expressed concerns about a free trade agreement with Columbia, never mind how tiny exports from Columbia to the US are, unions here have decided to take a stand on free trade with Columbia and have used human rights and labor rights concerns as their main line (now is international labor solidarity REALLY that high up on the list of things that Andy Stern cares about?).

The rampant paramilitarization of Columbian society is what restricts rule of law, and economic development is a major tool against that.

Given a tiny moment to affect a US election, what would you have done?
posted by stratastar at 4:53 AM on July 3, 2008

You wouldn't believe how long I've been waiting for this. I've been following Íngrid's (and the other hostages') drama for the past years now, and to tell you the truth, I thought the FARC would have never given up their prize hostage, and that we would never see Ingrid again. Well, turns out they never gave her up, since it was a tidy feat of social engineering the Colombian army pulled off. Good thing, too, since I don't think they would have ever released her, the stubborn misguided poor things they are.

I liked Íngrid as a Colombian presidential candidate because of her idealism, her stance against radicalism, and her willingness to take on the demons of militarism, insurgency, and drug-fueled craziness. If you're so inclined take a look at this Salon interview taken just months before her kidnapping. Fascinating stuff.

Truth be told, guys, this is the second time this year that a news story had me welled up with tears. I don't think I can convey the joy and relief this news has brought me (and many other Latin Americans), so let me just say that this is very similar to someone coming up to me and saying "Hey, remember your uncle Osvaldo? Turns out he's not dead anymore!" My heart was broken repeatedly these past years, every time one of her kids delivered yet another press conference urging her captors to have a little heart for heaven's sakes, every time another photograph of her emaciated body surfaced, and now reading these news, well, it's pure joy, I tell ya.

Truly, Íngrid has come back from the dead. And while we can't justly expect her to jump back into Colombian politics, since she herself has said that her past actions have caused her family so much pain and that any other decision will need to be taken with her children. If she does jump back into the fray, as I can only hope, well, we shouldn't be surprised if we see another female president in Latin America soon.

Íngrid, estamos conmovidos y extáticos por tu regreso. Siempre estuviste en nuestras mentes y corazones, y que ahora estés con nosotros nuevamente son las mejores noticias que pudimos haber escuchado. Recupérate pronto y esperamos que tu nueva vida tenga el sentido que siempre has querido que tenga.
posted by papafrita at 12:36 PM on July 3, 2008

US Rescued US hostages arrive in Texas.

US Rescued US hostages arrive in Texas USA, America. US.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:31 PM on July 3, 2008

*Colombian Rescued US hostages*
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on July 3, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt--This Year's Jessica Lynch?
"I had the funny feeling that the the “rescue” of Betancourt and the other hostages from the hands of FARC by the Colombian government looked, walked, and quacked more like a negotiated release than a genuine piece of special ops derring do. It looks like I might have been right. Swiss radio is reporting that it cost $20 million to spring the hostages.
For those of you interested in how unworthy suspicions flower in the mind of an incorrigibly cynical blogger, I will regale patient readers with a rundown of the official story's fishier elements."
posted by Abiezer at 7:01 AM on July 6, 2008

Yeah --- in my gut I still feel that there are some "fishy" elements to the way the hostage release went down. Also the fact that such took place as McCain was jetting his way to Colombia that very day makes me wonder about the coincidence.
posted by ericb at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2008

Here's another pre-kidnapping interview (Fresh Air with Terry Gross). From January 8, 2002. Less than two months before Ingrid was kidnapped.
posted by marsha56 at 1:38 AM on July 8, 2008

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