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Ingrid Betancourt plans book on hostage ordeal

Hers is a nightmare that will not fade quickly: six years in the jungles of Colombia as a hostage of leftist rebels. But Ingrid Betancourt says she is getting on with her life, and hopes to exorcise her demons by writing a book about her ordeal.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hers is a nightmare that will not fade quickly: six years in the jungles of Colombia as a hostage of leftist rebels. Ingrid Betancourt says little by little, she is getting on with her life and hopes to exorcise her demons by writing.

“Starting next year, I am going to isolate myself completely to be able to write. It will be the best way to help myself. It is a duty to give testimony with a constructive spirit,” Betancourt told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

“If I am able to do it, I am going to write a book about my kidnapping,” she said.

Betancourt — running for president when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, took her captive in 2002 — ruled out running again for that office. She also avoided any talk of revenge against her former captors.

Colombia's military freed the dual Colombian-French citizen in July along with 14 other hostages in a daring, covert rescue operation.

Betancourt spoke in Oviedo, a northern city where she will receive a humanitarian award Friday from a foundation named for Crown Prince Felipe.

Betancourt, 46, is being honored in a category that honors those who work for peace or fight poverty, injustice or disease, or otherwise endeavor to help mankind.

When the jury announced the prize in September, it hailed Betancourt as “a world symbol of freedom and human resistance in the face of the toughest adversities.” It added, “Her fight for democracy has been a hopeful example of dignity and bravery for the whole world.”

In the interview, Betancourt recalled how the year of her release began: with a march to a pretty area of the jungle and a rebel camp "that I am not going to forget."

“I ended up standing by a river, and I thought that if I started off the year looking at a river, it could only bring me good things. And the river brought me here,” she said.

Her immediate goal is to work for the release of hundreds of other hostages still held by the FARC. Thus, politics does not interest her.

“It is not in my plans and I do not think it is important. One can get a lot done from other realms,” Betancourt said.

For now, she cannot go back to Colombia because of death threats, but longs to return as soon as possible.

“We know there are contracts out to kill us, and that the FARC want to recapture all the people who were freed in July because they consider us fugitives,” said Betancourt, who now lives in France.

As she often has since her release, Betancourt said she does not seek revenge against her captors and favors dialogue and reconciliation to end Colombia's decades-old guerrilla war.

She described the rebel army as being in disarray: leaderless and increasingly radical to keep its ranks in line, and doomed as a legitimate advocate of leftist political ideology so long as it holds people hostage.

Betancourt hinted she does not believe Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is the man to negotiate peace in their country.

“I am speaking from the heart. I think negotiating can be constructive for my country. I hope that is understood and will allow others to pursue this path,” she said.