BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Video plea by Colombian hostage
Ingrid Betancourt speaking on Colombian TV
The video was apparently made by her kidnappers
Colombian rebels have released a video showing a kidnapped former presidential candidate and her running mate for the first time since they were seized five months ago.

The hazy footage showed ex-senator Ingrid Betancourt and Clara Rojas, who were kidnapped by the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after travelling to the group's former safe haven.

It's been a tremendously lonely 82 days

Ingrid Betancourt
The FARC has offered to swap Ms Betancourt and dozens of other captives for rebels being held in Colombian jails.

The Colombian Government has refused any deals involving prisoner exchanges.

The video, which was broadcast on the small Canal Uno television channel, was apparently recorded on 15 May.

Pale and gaunt

The normally animated Ms Betancourt appeared subdued and was dressed in what looked like a military jacket.

Click here for a map of the former FARC safe haven

Ms Rojas sat alongside her, looking very pale and thin, and did not speak.

Reading from notes, Ms Betancourt criticised the Colombian Government for what she said was the "abandonment of the country" and said that dialogue and the peace process had to continue.

She said she had spent "a tremendously lonely 82 days" since she was kidnapped on 23 February, suggesting she was speaking on 15 May.

She called on the government to return to peace talks with the rebels, called off by President Andres Pastrana in February.

Dangerous mission

Ms Betancourt and Ms Rojas were kidnapped after venturing into the FARC's safe haven days after the talks were broken off.

Ingrid Betancourt
Betancourt before her kidnap

Ms Betancourt, who was standing as an anti-corruption candidate in 26 May presidential elections, went to the main town in the zone - San Vicente del Caguan - to show her support for the local mayor.

Ignoring army warnings not to go the area, Ms Betancourt and Ms Rojas were kidnapped at a rebel roadblock.

While being held in captivity, Ms Betancourt won less than 2% of the vote in the poll which saw Alvaro Uribe sweep to victory.

He will take over the presidency on 7 August.

Kidnap culture

Colombia is the kidnap capital of the world; last year alone, about 3,000 people were snatched, including 49 foreigners.

Many of Colombia's kidnappings are carried out by left-wing gangs who want ransom money to fund their 38-year-old guerrilla war against the government and right-wing militias.

The FARC is the largest rebel group in Colombia and it has given the government one year to free jailed rebels.

It has warned of unspecified action against Ms Betancourt if its demands are not met.

As well as Ms Betancourt and Ms Rojas, the FARC is also holding five congressmen, former ministers of defence and development, and the elected governor of Antioquia province.

Click here to return

Key stories



See also:

23 Mar 02 | Americas
26 Feb 02 | Americas
15 Feb 02 | Americas
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |