Íngrid Betancourt - Kidnapping


Most candidates for political office visited the former DMZ. When Betancourt announced her trip, the government confirmed that a security escort would accompany her from Florencia to San Vicente del Caguan. When she landed at Florencia's airport, she was offered to be tranported to San Vicente del Caguan in a military helicopter. This offer was retracted later on, at the same time her body guards received the order to cancel their mission. President Pastrana and other officials explained they had turned down the helicopter ride offer, arguing that this meant rendering public resources to Betancourt's private political interests. Betancourt stated that as a presidential candidate, the government had, under constitutional provisions, the mandatory obligation to protect any Colombian running for presidency.

When denied transport aboard a military helicopter that was heading to the zone, she then went back to the original plan to head into the DMZ via ground transport, together with Clara Rojas, her campaign manager who was later named running-mate for the 2002 election, and a handful of political aides. On 23 February 2002, she was stopped at the last military checkpoint before going into the former DMZ. Military officers have reported they insisted in stopping her carand that Betancourt dismissed their warnings and continued her journey. This allegations contradicts the testimony of Adair Lamprea who was driving the car. He insists traffic was normal and that the military officers at the check point asked for their ID, but did not try to stop them. This is corroborated by the fact that on the Farc blockroad where Betancourt was kidnapped, other vehicles were stopped, including a Red Cross fourwheel drive car, and a bus, thus proving normal traffic. According to her kidnapper, the later captured Nolberto Uni Vega, Betancourt ended up at a FARC checkpoint where she was kidnapped. Her kidnap was never planned beforehand, said the rebel. Íngrid still appeared on the ballot for the presidential elections; her husband promised to continue her campaign. She achieved less than 1% of the votes.

Betancourt stated in an NPR interview that the government did offer to fly her, but later reneged and took away her flight, and then took away her bodyguards. She also stated she was never warned that it would be dangerous to travel by road, that checkpoints let her through with no warning nor attempt to stop her, and that the government encouraged her to travel by road.

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