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End Farc 'hate', Betancourt urges

Ingrid Betancourt in Paris on 7 July 2008
Ms Betancourt urged an end to hurtful vocabulary towards the rebels

The recently freed Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt has urged an end to the Colombian government's "vocabulary of hate" against her former captors.

Ms Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, was held hostage for six years by Marxist Farc rebels.

But, while praising President Alvaro Uribe's work towards her release, she said it was time to end "extremist" language towards the Farc.

She told the BBC that she did not rule out running for president again.

"That could be a really nice dream, but I don't think it's the top of the dream," she said.

She was speaking in Paris, where she flew after her release last Wednesday.

In a separate interview for French radio, she said: "I think we have reached a point where we must change this radical, extremist vocabulary of hate of very strong words that intimately wound the human being."

Ms Betancourt is urging the government to take a more conciliatory tone towards the Farc to achieve further hostage releases, says BBC Americas analyst Warren Bull.

But she has no illusions about what she considers to be the group's real nature, he adds.

Revenge fear

The 46-year-old, who has dual Colombian and French nationality, said she would not return to Colombia immediately.

"I think one has to be clever, maybe it is not the time to go home," Ms Betancourt said in another interview for Radio France International.

INGRID BETANCOURT
Ingrid Betancourt after her release 2 July 2008
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

"The Farc have taken a huge blow, they could probably want some kind of revenge or do something to regain a certain prestige, so I think it is best to be careful."

Ms Betancourt was campaigning for Colombia's presidency when she was captured by the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2002.

Speaking to French radio, she did not rule out resuming her political career at some stage but said the time was not yet right.

She said she wished to serve Colombia with all her heart, but that at present it was "too early to talk of such things".

Ms Betancourt has become a celebrity in France, and is due to receive a Legion of Honour medal from President Nicolas Sarkozy next week.

She has said that she plans to write a play about her experience of being held hostage by the left-wing rebels.

'Cover story'

Keith Stansell (l), Marc Gonsalves (c) and Thomas Howes (r) after their rescue by the Colombian armed forces on 2 July 2008
Mr Gonsalves thanked the Colombian government and military for his rescue

The Farc, which has been fighting the Colombian state for the past four decades, still holds more than 40 high-profile hostages, among up to 700 other captives.

On Monday, one of three American hostages released at the same time as Ms Betancourt said that the Farc were not revolutionaries but "terrorists".

Marc Gonsalves said that the rebels were "bad people" whose interests lay in drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

"They say that they want equality. They say that they just want to make Colombia a better place. But that is all a lie. It is a cover story, and they hide behind it," Mr Gonsalves said.

Mr Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell were captured in 2003 when their plane crashed during an anti-drug mission.

Addressing a news conference in Texas, Mr Gonsalves said that the Farc would punish other hostages because of the three men and Ms Betancourt's release.


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