Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 16:56 UK

Colombia's future: Readers' views

Ingrid Betancourt (L) and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
Which one of these people will shape Colombia's political future?
Two days on from Ingrid Betancourt's dramatic rescue at the hands of Farc rebels, many Colombians are reflecting on whether this could become a watershed moment in the country's 44-year conflict.

Here, readers in Colombia - including a former Farc hostage - reflect on how they have personally been affected by the long-running battle between the government and guerrilla forces and tell us what they think will happen next.


Catalina Ardila
Farc have certainly been weakened by Wednesday's events.

The rescue showed the vast experience of the military forces, gained through previous operations in which hostages were killed.

They knew they had to come up with a new strategy this time and it worked.

People thought Ingrid Betancourt would not make it out of the jungle alive. She was the queen in Farc's poker game and they have lost her.

Now they have to consider their next move. I don't think they will negotiate with the government and I certainly don't think they'll surrender.

They will look to maintain their power struggle. They will look to hit back in another way, possibly with a terrorist attack. They could strike at any time.

There's so much hate still there between the two sides. Sometimes when the enemy is injured they are at their most dangerous.

It is a very important victory for Uribe, however, and he is certainly secure in his job after this, for now.

He has improved security for the people of Colombia and I support him in this. Thanks to him we are safer now. Before we could not go out into the streets for fear of guerrillas waiting to kidnap us.

I worry for the other hostages, they may be made to suffer for this.

Ingrid will need time before she decides what to do next. So will Farc. We just have to wait and see what happens next, politically and in terms of our own security.


I felt great happiness personally when I saw Ingrid freed, having been kidnapped myself four years ago by Farc in Sucre, in the north of Colombia.

I was held for a month. My family came up with US$50,000 as a ransom to free me.

I cannot describe the feeling of being liberated. When I got out, I only wanted to cry and pour my heart out.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L), wife Carla, and Ingrid Betancourt (R)
Ms Betancourt, who is French-Colombian, has arrived in Paris
It all came back to me when I heard Ingrid speak. It gave me goosebumps.

I would like to see Ingrid facilitating the liberation of the rest of the hostages. This should be her priority.

She has the understanding to fulfil that role. When you have been held captive you understand that guerrilla fighters are also human.

Some of them have been forced to be there, others because they are running away from other groups and others because they are following their convictions.

You cannot really predict what Farc will do next, as they are lawless. The remaining hostages are still an insurance policy for Farc's higher ranks.

The government has to sit down with them and negotiate. This has to benefit both sides, particularly Farc, as I think they are politically and militarily weak now.

I support President Uribe 100% in his efforts. I can only ask the relatives of the kidnapped for patience - they have to trust their government and their military forces.

I think Ingrid will eventually be a future presidential candidate, after Uribe's re-election for a third term. I see her in the role of president eventually.

(Parts of this interview were translated from


Diego Pelaez
The spectacular rescue of the hostages on Wednesday was an incredible blow to Farc.

They are really isolated now. The high ranking Farc commander who gave herself up in May, Nelly Avila Moreno, has already confirmed this.

They have lost their big cards in Ingrid Betancourt and the American hostages and without them they have very little to play with now.

People here were in disbelief and how incredibly well planned it was and shows that the government has the capacity to intercept Farc's operations.

Hopefully it will bring them to the negotiating table. The government now needs to give them that space to consider negotiating, by easing off in its military operations in key Farc areas.

Uribe's popularity rating will shoot up after this, but he will probably now be too popular. I voted for him twice, but I don't think he should have another term.

I think Ingrid will now play a very important role politically. She was extremely supportive of the armed forces and of Uribe in her speech upon release, and I think this was all planned. She may well end up as Uribe's party's candidate in 2010.

There is now a much better chance for peace - possibly the best chance in 40 years of this conflict - and Uribe may now have achieved what he wanted to achieve.

Most importantly, it's time for Farc to realise all this nonsense is over.

The attacks and kidnappings have affected us all. My niece survived a Farc bombing in 2002 and a father of one of my best friends was kidnapped 15 years ago.

It's time for all that to end now.


Juan Cespedes
I know Ingrid personally, as my father was an advisor to her father when he was education minister.

I think she is destined to play a major role in Colombian politics, now that she is free.

The question of who is a suitable candidate to succeed Uribe is one which has been on the minds of all Colombians for some time, but I believe that has now been answered.

I see her as being able to use her worldwide recognition and reputation to bring good to Colombia and help change the negative image of Colombians as terrorists and narco-traffickers.

She can also help mobilise international support and domestic public opinion to bring about a peace process.

I think she is destined to lead that effort.

She is already politically involved in the future of this country and she is a likely future president, possibly in 2010.

So, we are now much closer to the possibility of negotiations with the guerrillas.

Once the enemy is debilitated, that will become a reality. We are closer to that after Wednesday's events but we are not there yet.

Farc are not going to just give up overnight - they are a business after all.

On a personal level, Ingrid needs to take some time to recover. Her health is the priority for now, but once she has fully recovered I see her becoming involved and helping to bring about peace.

People have been forced to live with the trouble in this country for too long. My father was almost kidnapped and I had to leave the country myself for two years because of threats. Enough is enough.


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