Freed hostage Ingrid Betancourt descended the stairs of an aircraft in Bogota, Colombia, and addressed the world's media to talk about her dramatic rescue, her captors, her fellow hostages and her plans for the future.
Ingrid Betancourt arrives at Catam air base in Bogota
Thank you to the army, from my country of Colombia, thank you for your impeccable operation. The operation was perfect. This morning when I woke up, I prayed at four in the morning and put myself in the hands of God.
We hoped that maybe one of us could be freed through an international commission, which you, the media, have talked about. I owe a lot to the media. If it had not been for you, I would probably not be alive. Those of you who took time to give us space on the radio, the possibility to communicate with our families, I owe you so much.
The helicopters arrived and surreal characters came out... men dressed with logos that certified them to be delegates of I don't know what. I looked and I thought: and these guys? ... What kind of international committee is this?
They closed the helicopter's doors and I saw the commander who for four years had been in charge of us, who had been cruel, humiliating and despotic so many times. I saw him on the floor, naked, blindfolded. I don't think I felt happiness, but rather pity, but I thanked God that I was with people who respect other people's lives, even when they are enemies.
Then the chief of the operation said: 'We're from the National Army and you're free!' The helicopter almost fell from the sky because we all jumped, shouted, cried and embraced. We couldn't believe it....
Thanks to all of you who accompanied me in your prayers, who thought of me and kept me in your hearts, who felt compassion for us hostages and had us live in your lives, and rejected those who said the only solution was to wait.
I am Colombian, but I am also French. My heart is shared. I carry all of you in my heart. I thank all of you for your prayers. I thank you for the time you have devoted to me. I thank you for the fight that you have given in my defence, the protection and love that you have given to my children. Very soon I will be with you. I dream of being in France. I want to embrace you. I want to tell you that I am there with you.
All Colombians who go to France know they're welcome because France shelters us, protects us, fights for us, and I know that with President (Nicolas) Sarkozy, with all French people, with all Europe, with the whole world that has supported us, we're going to keep fighting for the freedom of those who are still left behind.
I owe a lot to those who gave us space on the radio to have a chance to communicate with our families. We were able to dream and keep hope alive because we heard our families, my mother, our children...
The people who are still there, the guerrillas that were our guards, we left them alive, I hope that they can stay alive and I hope they won't be unjustly dealt with for what happened. The operation was perfect.
Let this instance of happiness not let us forget the others who have died.
Peace must be made with the promise that there are no more kidnappings... Everyone has to feel that this national union is going to help us to get them all back safe and sound...
Do I still dream about serving Colombia? Yes. Of the presidency? Only God knows. Right now I just want to feel like another soldier, another Colombian soldier at the service of the motherland. That is my greatest happiness. Thank you.