Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who spent six years as a hostage of the FARC, said Friday that she believed FARC leaders deserved to share the Nobel Peace Prize with this year’s winner, President Juan Manuel Santos.
“Yes. For me it is very difficult to say, but yes,” Betancourt told a French television network on Friday, asked directly whether “those who abducted you also deserve to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Betancourt added that she was “very, very, very happy” to see Santos win the award as it will “invite a moment of reflection in Colombia, of hope for peace, of the happiest to tell us that there is no turning back on peace.”
Of Santos in particular, she said he had “struggled practically on his own to obtain that result [a peace deal], he is changing the history of the country because he is giving new generations of Colombians the possibility of [living in] a different country.”
Betancourt was abducted in 2002 while she was campaigning during her presidential campaign as a member of a party she founded, the left-leaning Green Oxygen party. She spent six years in captivity and was freed in 2008 by a military operation ordered by then-president Álvaro Uribe, who is currently a senator and the most prominent voice against the FARC peace deal. Santos was Uribe’s Defense Minister at the time and had a leadership role in organizing the operation.
While Betancourt initially emerged as a heroine from the ordeal, accounts written later by hostages who had to share quarters with her in the Colombian jungle painted an unsavory picture of a crass egotist who used her fame to secure better treatment from the terrorists. “I watched her try to take over the camp with an arrogance that was out of control. Some of the guards treated us better than she did,” Keith Stansell, an American Marine who was abducted and lived with the same set of hostages as Betancourt, said of her. He and two other Americans kept in her quarters later wrote a book in which they accused her of stealing food from other hostages and turning the terrorists against them by insisting they were CIA operatives.
Betancourt has said that Uribe’s opposition to Santos’s peace deal is “a matter of egos” and not a legitimate concern regarding the leniency of the agreement towards the terrorists.
Santos received the award on Friday in recognition of years of attempting to broker a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist group that has operated in Colombia for the past half century. The FARC are the wealthiest non-jihadist terrorist group in the world, thanks to their extensive cocaine-smuggling operation, and its members have committed a wide array of crimes, including but not limited to kidnapping, murder, rape, the use of child soldiers, forced abortions for child soldiers used as sex slaves, and drug trafficking.
At least 220,000 people have died since the FARC was founded, and another 100,000 remain missing.
Santos and FARC leader “Timochenko” signed a deal that would have allowed the FARC to establish a political party, launching themselves as candidates for office. They would have also been given representation in Congress without being elected, and most FARC terrorists would not have had to serve prison sentences. FARC terrorists would have had to hand themselves over to police and a tribunal made up partially of other FARC terrorists for sentencing.
The Colombian people voted down this referendum last weekend, with the country’s rural interior — the area most affected by terrorism — leading the “no” vote.