Page last updated at 03:53 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 04:53 UK

Profile: Ingrid Betancourt

Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was captured on 23 February 2002 by the left-wing Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

In the years until her release on Wednesday, her fate was followed not only in her home country but also in France as she is also a French citizen.

Ingrid Betancourt in 2001
Ms Betancourt was kidnapped while campaigning in southern Colombia

Ms Betancourt was kidnapped along with her aide, Clara Rojas, by a group of rebels who stopped their car while the women were campaigning in a region of southern Colombia controlled by the Farc.

She had been a severe critic of the Farc while campaigning in the presidential election, and although warned by the government not to travel to the rebel-held area, visited San Vicente del Caguan where she was kidnapped.

Ms Betancourt's husband, Juan Carlos Lecompte, said she had felt she needed to be with the people of San Vicente "during the good and the bad".

Her family had urged the Colombian authorities not to launch a rescue attempt so as not to put her life in danger.

She was among some 40 high-profile hostages whom the Farc rebels had offered to free if the government released hundreds of jailed rebels and set up in a demilitarised zone.

But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has maintained a tough line, insisting that any freed rebels must give guarantees that they will not pick up arms again.

International upbringing

Ingrid Betancourt was born in Colombia on 25 December 1961, but grew up in Paris where her father was a diplomat.

Her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, was a former Miss Colombia who later served in Colombia's Congress.

Born on 25 December 1961
Grows up in Paris
1989: Returns to Colombia
1994: Elected to lower house
1998: Becomes a senator
2002: Kidnapped by Farc rebels
2008: Rescued by authorities

Her father, former government minister Gabriel Betancourt Mejia, died of heart and respiratory trouble a month after her kidnap, without seeing his daughter again.

Ms Betancourt married (and later divorced) a French diplomat, Fabrice Delloye, receiving French citizenship as a result, and had two children, Melanie and Lorenzo.

She returned to Colombia in 1989 to become actively involved in national politics.

There, she was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 1994, on an anti-corruption ticket. She then formed her own party, the Green Oxygen Party, and became a senator in 1998.

Waiting game

The first proof that she was still alive came in a video five months after her kidnap.

In a second video a year later, she could be seen appealing to the government to rescue her.

Then it was not until November last year that new pictures were seen, when Colombian officials released videos and photos they said they had seized from captured rebels.

Ingrid Betancourt and husband Juan Carlos Lecompte, Catam air base, Bogota 2 July 2008
Ms Betancourt is reunited with her husband after stepping to freedom

These pictures showed a number of the hostages considered "high-profile", including Ms Betancourt.

In the video, said to have been filmed the month before, Ms Betancourt, looking extremely thin, sat on a chair in a jungle setting, not speaking but just looking at the ground.

In a letter addressed to her mother released shortly after the video, she said her strength had diminished, her appetite had gone, and her hair was falling out.

She also said she had been able to hear messages from her family and other supporters on a Colombian radio station and asked her son and daughter to send her three messages every week, even though she was not able to respond.

Presidential hopes

In January 2008, the Farc freed Clara Rojas and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez.

Another four hostages, who were released on 27 February, warned that Ms Betancourt's health was fading fast and that they feared for her life.

On 2 July 2008, Ms Betancourt was finally freed from her jungle prison along with 14 other hostages in a daring rescue by Colombian forces.

After being reunited with her family at an air base in Bogota, she thanked President Uribe, against whom she was running when she was kidnapped.

She also showed her ordeal had done little to diminish her political ambition as she revealed: "I continue to aspire to serve Colombia as president."

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific